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Preparing for IV Ketamine Therapy: Understanding the Psychedelic Experience

IV ketamine therapy is a profound and potentially life-changing experience. This innovative treatment, using low doses of ketamine to combat mood disorders and chronic pain, can unlock new pathways for healing and personal growth by promoting neuroplasticity in the brain. Although not technically a classic psychedelic, ketamine has psychedelic properties, often inducing a dream-like state of dissociation, which may seem a little daunting for some. To maximize the benefits of your psychedelic experience, it’s essential to prepare thoroughly. This preparation involves understanding the process, collaborating with a psychotherapist, setting clear intentions and goals, adopting new healthy habits, and learning grounding practices such as mindfulness or breath work. Read on for my recommendations, based on my experience as both a clinic manager and a former patient, on how to prepare for the psychedelic journey of IV ketamine therapy.

What Will Ketamine Feel Like?

It's normal to feel a bit apprehensive before starting IV ketamine therapy. You might wonder: What will it feel like? Is it safe? What if I have a "bad" trip? Ketamine is a very safe and effective medicine that has been widely used for over fifty years. It's important to understand that you are in good hands, and the more you can lean into the process and approach it with curiosity, the more you can gain from your experience.

Most patients, including myself, report that the psychedelic qualities of ketamine can be soothing and enjoyable, often featuring dream-like visions that shift and change from swirling kaleidoscope shapes to colorful vistas of mountains and star-filled galaxies over the course of the forty-minute-long infusion. Others describe a mild sensation of floating, with no visual side effects at all. Some experience memories or see people from their past, inducing powerful emotions. Some people laugh, some people cry. At Innerbloom, patients wear eyeshades and use a noise cancelling headset with a special playlist curated to help enhance and guide each session. The majority of our patients report having dissociation, or an out-of-body experience, where they may temporarily lose sense of their physical body during the infusion. Some ketamine experiences may be challenging to navigate at times, so it helps to have some tips and tricks ready to use when you need them.

It's important to note that dissociation is not required to achieve positive treatment results. However, at our clinic, we believe that there is often something valuable to be learned from visiting this psychedelic realm. Remember, the more you embrace the process and approach the unknown with curiosity, the more you can gain from your ketamine therapy experience.

Before your first infusion, be sure to review our Comprehensive Guide to ensure you get the most out of your treatment. Be well hydrated, but avoid solid foods for three hours prior to your appointment. Although a poor night’s sleep won’t ruin the experience, try your best to be well rested and properly nourished in the days leading up to your psychedelic journey.

Collaborating with a Psychotherapist

Before starting IV ketamine therapy, it’s of the utmost importance to work with a qualified psychotherapist. This professional partnership can provide you with the tools and support necessary to navigate the psychedelic journey effectively. Here’s how our certified ketamine-assisted psychotherapist Cindy Nelson, LMFT, can help you prepare:

A psychotherapy session in progress. A patient is sitting comfortably on a couch, talking to a psychotherapist who is seated in an armchair across from client
Incorporating ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP) into the treatment process can enhance the efficacy of ketamine therapy, creating a synergistic effect.

- Develop a Treatment Plan: Cindy will help you further understand the Innerbloom treatment process, outline what to expect during sessions, and create a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and goals.

- Set Intentions and Goals: Intentions act as a guiding compass for your psychedelic journey. Whether you aim to alleviate depression, manage chronic pain, or gain insight into personal issues or traumas, having clear goals can help you stay focused and grounded during the experience.

- Emotional Support: Cindy provides a safe space to explore your thoughts and feelings through your treatment series. She can help you integrate your experiences and insights into your daily life to create lasting change. New emotions and feelings may be brought to light during your treatment series. Having a mental healthcare professional help you navigate these changes can be immensely helpful.

Setting Intentions and Goals

Setting intentions and goals is a vital part of preparing for IV ketamine therapy. These intentions help direct your focus and energy during the experience, enhancing the therapeutic outcomes. Here’s how to set meaningful intentions:

- Reflect on Your Motivations: Take some time to contemplate why you are seeking ketamine therapy. What do you hope to achieve? What areas of your life do you want to improve? Why now? Are you ready to make changes?

- Be Specific: Clear, specific goals are more effective than vague ones. Instead of setting a general intention like “I want to feel better,” try something more focused like “Show me the root of my anxiety” or “Teach me about my depression.”

- Write Them Down: Documenting your intentions can reinforce your commitment and provide a reference point before and after your sessions. Keeping a journal throughout your treatment series can be a powerful tool for self reflection.

Learning Grounding Practices

Grounding practices such as mindfulness and breath work can be incredibly beneficial in preparing for and navigating the psychedelic experience. These techniques help you manage any challenging emotions or sensations that may arise. 

It's important to note that an infusion is typically forty minutes long, with the peak of the experience only lasting about fifteen minutes for most. Dr. Rivas sits in the infusion room during every single infusion, (and sometimes I do, too!) so you will never be alone at any point during your journey.

Waking Up, a mindfulness app developed by neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris, is our top recommendation for meditation, particularly for beginners.

- Mindfulness Meditation: Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Practicing mindfulness can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, making it easier to manage them during your ketamine sessions, even if something uncomfortable is brought to light. Start with a few minutes of mindfulness meditation each day, gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable with the practice. Find an app or a podcast you connect with and get started!

- Breath Work: Controlled breathing techniques can help regulate your nervous system and maintain a sense of stability during your psychedelic journey. Techniques such as deep belly breathing or the 4-7-8 method (inhaling for 4 seconds, holding for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds) can be particularly effective during a psychedelic experience.

- Grounding Exercises: Physical grounding techniques, such as feeling your hands on the armrest of the chair or bringing a comforting object such as a blanket or special talisman, can help keep you feel secure. Mental grounding techniques provide an anchor in the storm. If you begin to feel anxious, use a mantra such as “I am safe, I am loved” or imagine a beautiful place such as your favorite beach or a garden to help soothe your emotions and bring you back to a steady state while the medicine washes over you.


Preparing for IV ketamine therapy involves more than just showing up for the sessions. It’s about creating a supportive framework that includes professional guidance, clear intentions, and creating a new, healthy path for yourself going forward. By collaborating with a psychotherapist, setting meaningful goals, and learning techniques like mindfulness and breath work, you can enhance your ability to navigate the psychedelic experience and unlock the full therapeutic potential of ketamine therapy. Most importantly, know that there is no wrong way to undergo your infusion. While we hope that everyone’s infusion is relaxing and beautiful, the most important part is that you are here, safely receiving the medicine.

At Innerbloom Ketamine Therapy in San Luis Obispo, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive support throughout your journey. Our team, including Dr. Ray Rivas and Cindy Nelson and myself, is here to guide you every step of the way. Remember, preparation is the key to a successful and transformative experience. Embrace the journey with an open heart and mind, and allow the healing process to unfold naturally. Have questions? Reach out!

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