‘Shaking up the snow globe’: Satori Health & Wellness offers ‘integrated’ ketamine treatment experience

CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — A little over a year ago, I was approached by a nurse’s assistant named Kristy after I had left a surgical patient in the recovery room following performing anesthesia.

“What do you know about ketamine for depression?” she asked.

As a board-certified anesthesiologist, I told her what I knew, which is that ketamine is an anesthesia medication, but it has been used recently to treat depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and other mental problems. It rapidly relieves suicidal thoughts and stops obsessive thoughts. Often, patients have some of the most meaningful, spiritual experiences of their lives while undergoing ketamine treatment.

“I’m so suicidal that I’ve boxed up all my possessions,” Kristy said. “Would you be willing to give me ketamine?”

At the time, nobody in Southern Utah was offering the service. I had just moved back after growing up here and moving away to be on the faculty at the University of Utah. I had a young family, a busy anesthesia practice and plenty of student debt. The last thing I needed was a mental health practice. 

But Kristy was so sincere – and brave – to reach out. I’ve also struggled with my own life challenges and felt that I could give something back to the community both professionally and personally. I told her yes, and we started Satori Health & Wellness. Satori is a Japanese term for “sudden enlightenment.” 

Over the next year, my wife and better half in every sense of the word, Dr. Rachel Allen, and I bought a quaint pioneer house in which to run our little clinic. Since the setting of ketamine treatment is vital to the outcome, we made it into a living room-like environment. People often comment on the energy of the house.

Since the beginning, we’ve wanted to offer intimate connections with our patients. We sit with them the entire treatment, which typically lasts 90 minutes. In that time, we delve into the root issues of why the patient is seeking care.

During a ketamine treatment, people usually experience an altered state of consciousness, which is a large component to the success of therapy. They may have visions and an experience of unity with the universe, overwhelming love and self-acceptance. Sometimes, people have an out-of-body experience. This is why it’s critical to have a qualified guide with you during the treatment. This therapeutic relationship is one of the keys to our success

A useful analogy on how ketamine works is “shaking up the snow globe.” When you’re depressed and anxious, your thoughts and emotions just go in circles. Ketamine disrupts those circular patterns. When the snow settles, you have the opportunity to lay down new tracks in the snow. It allows your inner wisdom to shine out of the darkness.  

Spirituality plays a huge role in ketamine therapy. Often, the ketamine experience can only be described in spiritual language. Some of the terms that patients most often use include “love,” “acceptance,” “surrender,” “shadows,” “light,” “unity” and “floating.” Most people say it’s one of the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives, up there with the birth of a child.

At Satori, we want the relief from mental anguish to be sustained. We spend a lot of time talking about the meaning of life. We use concepts from psychology, religion, philosophy, neuroscience and spirituality, tailored to what resonates with you. Because your body is intimately connected with the quality of your mental experience, we use our medical training to maximize your physical health. Diet, exercise, meditation and mindfulness are taught at Satori. 

Some of my most meaningful relationships with patients have come while working with their therapists. This is part of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. Ketamine relaxes the mental defenses that we all have, defenses that are often a result of trauma – physical, sexual or emotional. When the walls are down, true healing emerges from our vulnerability. Because of this, I encourage patients to have a safe space to work through difficult emotions. Usually this takes the form of a trained therapist. 

At Satori, we’ve gone to great lengths to provide an integrated experience. Integration is the process in which you take the insights gained during ketamine therapy and apply them to your daily life. It’s often not easy – change never is – and patients who are not ready to peer into their inner landscape often don’t do well. It’s not a quick fix or a magic pill. The patients who have the most success approach ketamine therapy intentionally and with deep courage. 

I encourage interested mental health therapists to call me. We will be conducting ketamine-assisted psychotherapy training courses in the coming months. Positive change usually occurs when patients have long-term relationships with skilled professionals who can offer support and encouragement.

We are also excited to announce that we’re starting group integration classes at the Satori House on Wednesdays. Because the ketamine experience is unlike anything else in this world, words often don’t do it justice. It can be beautiful, scary, vast, colorful and everything in between. We do our best to make sense of it in the clinic, but patients often need a space to talk about ketamine with others who have undergone the treatment. 

Connecting with people through ketamine therapy has been one of the most meaningful chapters of my journey, and I’d like to be a guide on your journey. 

By the way, Kristy is doing amazing and I bet she’d love to share her story if you’re interested. Call us at 435-669-4403 today to find out more.

Written by DR. SCOTT ALLEN for Satori Health & Wellness.

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