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New Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy Clinic Opens at Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI)

Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI) will see its first patients for outpatient Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) at HMHI's Park City Behavioral Health Clinic. The director of the KAP clinic, Benjamin Lewis, MD, is board-certified in adult psychiatry and has been a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry at HMHI and University of Utah Health since 2012. He specializes in the emerging science and clinical applications of psychedelic medicines and hopes that this new clinic can pave the way for unique and innovative therapies, programs, and research.

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that has been used at sub-anesthetic doses to treat depression. Ketamine treatment is still exploratory and has not yet been approved by the FDA. However, it has been shown to be effective, especially for patients who have not responded to traditional treatment options, and can result in rapid symptom relief. Current research suggests that ketamine works differently than other antidepressants and exerts its effects through alterations in levels of glutamate in the brain. Researchers believe this activity can help with anesthesia, pain management, and depression treatment.

“Ketamine is interesting,” Lewis says, “in that it can open a window of what we refer to as ‘neuroplasticity': a period where the brain is more flexible and amenable to new connections. With appropriate support and therapeutic engagement, these windows can help many people to change cognitive patterns, behaviors, and certain maladaptive beliefs that may be related to persistent mood symptoms. Engaging with a specific and individually tailored therapeutic process around this medication allows us to strike while the iron is hot.”

Ketamine infusion therapy as a treatment of clinical depression is still relatively new, but recent studies have shown it to have acute beneficial effects on 70 percent of clinically depressed patients. HMHI and University of Utah Health have been administering ketamine infusions through the Treatment Resistant Mood Disorder Clinic (TRMD) at HMHI and through outpatient clinics for a number of years. Patients must be referred to the clinic by a psychiatrist to receive the treatment. Studies have shown that a low dose of ketamine infused over a period of time, with proper therapeutic and medical oversight, can have dramatic positive effects on clinical depression and suicidal ideation, especially in cases that do not respond to standard treatment.

“We are committed to a thoughtful, individualized, and comprehensive approach to using this medicine. We have deep respect for the healing potential in this work.”

Benjamin Lewis, MD

While the TRMD and other clinics are already using heavily regulated dosages of ketamine for treatments, the HMHI Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy Clinic, located at HMHI's Park City Behavioral Health Clinic, will take a more flexible and experiential approach. The model of care will emphasize exploring and integrating insights and experiential aspects of the ketamine experience and incorporating those within an embedded psychotherapeutic process. Ketamine will be administered either orally or intramuscularly with accompanying music and eye shades for the active phase of the experience. This will be followed by specific and flexibly designed psychotherapeutic interventions with a therapist trained in KAP.

Research is an essential part of the new clinic's mission. The clinic will be designed to inform and develop more effective clinical pathways for patients as well as to answer larger questions in the field regarding how to optimally use this therapeutic tool.

“Much of this data doesn't exist yet,” Lewis says. “We want to be positioned as a clinic to start investigating questions about ketamine-assisted therapy as a treatment.”

The new clinic at HMHI is dedicated to exploring this exciting new terrain, gathering data, and helping to discover new ways to bring mental health solutions and quality of life to as many people as possible in a safe and thoughtful way.

“We are committed to a thoughtful, individualized, and comprehensive approach to using this medicine,” Lewis says. “We have deep respect for the healing potential in this work and look forward to being a part of many peoples' journeys.”

About the Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy Clinic

The Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy Clinic is a self-pay outpatient clinical service offering new and emerging psychedelic-assisted therapy interventions and psychedelic integration. Please call the HMHI Park City Behavioral Health Clinic at 435-658-9998 for more information or to schedule an appointment.