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The Role of Music in Ketamine and Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy

Music, an ancient form of communication and connection, plays an essential role in psychedelic and ketamine therapy, acting as the wind in the sails of the psychedelic journey. It not only guides and soothes the mind, but also stimulates, weaving chapters and narratives into the therapeutic process. The synergy between music and psychedelic-assisted therapy unfolds a path filed with transformative potential, uniquely blending these elements. At Innerbloom, the leading psychedelic and ketamine therapy clinic in San Luis Obispo, music playlists are thoughtfully crafted for each session, recognizing the profound impact music has on the ketamine and psychedelic experience and its therapeutic possibilities. Many who have experienced ketamine therapy recount how music seamlessly integrates with their psychedelic journey, seeming to steer their explorations and the spaces they traverse. The transition between tracks feels intuitively timed, as if the subconscious itself could foresee the change, while the journey's twists and turns align with psychedelic visuals that move in harmony with the music.

The nature of music becomes even more fascinating when considered alongside the use of ketamine and psychedelics. These substances, including LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA have been integral to human societies for millennia, altering consciousness and often used in tandem with music during religious ceremonies, rituals, and therapeutic sessions. This intersection of music and psychedelics invites us to explore their combined impact on the human psyche and culture.

The Evolutionary Origins of Music

Music's evolutionary roots underscore its significance in human culture and psychology, suggesting a key role in social bonding, enhancing communication, and ensuring survival. Music's ability to evoke deep emotions and support introspective exploration renders it a potent adjunct in ketamine and psychedelic therapy. Historically, the synergy of music and psychedelics has been integral to societal rituals, facilitating spiritual experiences and strengthening community bonds. From the shamanic ceremonies of indigenous peoples to contemporary therapeutic practices, this blend of music and psychedelics has been a catalyst for healing, enlightenment, and transcendence. This enduring connection speaks to the deep-rooted human desire to explore the boundaries of consciousness and the universal language of music as a guide on this journey.

The Effects of Music on the Brain

Listening to music, often perceived as a passive activity, is in fact a dynamic interaction between the listener and the musical elements. Listeners continually forecast upcoming sounds, adjusting their expectations based on the variance between their anticipations and the actual music. This interactive process is shaped by a variety of factors, including one's cultural background, personal experiences, and the specific context in which the music is played.

Scientific research supports this interactive model, revealing that the brain's response to music involves a complex hierarchical system. Within this framework, different levels of the brain collaborate to anticipate and respond to musical patterns, enabling a continuous refinement of our musical expectations. Understanding the active nature of music perception not only explains why music is so emotionally gratifying, but also corresponds with the effects of psychedelics on the brain. Substances such as ketamine can modify our musical perception, actions, and emotional responses, highlighting the interconnectedness of music, the brain, and altered states of consciousness.

Music and Psychedelics: A Synergetic Relationship

Ketamine and classic psychedelics, such as psilocybin and LSD, are known to impact the brain by targeting serotonin receptors, specifically the 5-HT2A receptors. This interaction can influence one's experience of music, suggesting a broad system overlap between music and psychedelic effects on the brain. Studies have shown that music can increase serotonin release in both animals and humans, which may be linked to the emotional and perceptual changes during psychedelic experiences. Furthermore, the action of psychedelics on 5-HT2A receptors, which are densely located in brain regions associated with music perception, suggests a direct connection between these experiences. Psychedelics have been shown to enhance cortical plasticity and sensitivity to music, indicating a complex relationship between brain chemistry, music perception, and the psychedelic experience.

Listen to 'This Is Innerbloom' on Spotify to get a sense of the music during ketamine therapy

Crafting the Psychedelic Soundscape

Constructing a playlist for psychedelic-assisted therapy is a nuanced art, requiring consideration of the individual's emotional state, the therapeutic goals, and the specific phases of the psychedelic experience. The choice of music can greatly impact the direction and depth of the journey, underscoring the necessity of thoughtful selection and flexibility to adapt to the client's needs.

Certainly, there is a right and wrong way to approach this. It's essential to choose music without aggressive undertones, a fast tempo, or overwhelming lyrics that might be interpreted as unsettling, or even frightening, to someone under the influence. The objective is for the music to serve as a foundation of comfort, tranquility, and safety, fostering curiosity, rather than a cacophony of sounds or a catalyst for an intense, possibly disorienting, psychedelic experience.

The Importance of Set and Setting

The crucial role of music in the context of psychedelic therapy, emphasizes the importance of the therapeutic environment, or "set and setting," in influencing both the immediate and long-term effects of psychedelic experiences. The "set" refers to the internal state of the individual, including mood and expectations, while "setting" encompasses the external environment, designed to be comfortable, complete with soothing lighting, decor, and music. Music, specifically, is highlighted as a key component, believed to foster therapeutic emotions, mental imagery, and a sense of safety, thereby contributing to positive mental health outcomes.

The efficacy of music therapy, even outside the context of psychedelics, is well-documented across various patient demographics and conditions. It has shown to improve social functioning, reduce anxiety, enhance quality of life, alleviate depressive symptoms, aid in gait rehabilitation, and support global functioning in individuals with a range of disorders, from neurodevelopmental conditions to chronic illnesses and dementia.

serene therapy room is enhanced with musical instruments, including a guitar and a small piano, alongside vinyl records and a high-quality speaker system.
The concept of "set and setting" plays a key role in unlocking the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.


Within the context of ketamine and psychedelic therapy, music serves not just as background ambiance, but as a therapeutic tool to guide the psychedelic journey, with structured playlists being used for this specific purpose. The intentional use of music—to match the emotional and experiential arc of the psychedelic session—provides nonverbal support that enhances the therapeutic process.

As we continue to explore and understand the intricate relationship between music and psychedelics, it is clear that this combination offers a unique and powerful pathway to healing, self-discovery, and transcendence. The journey is as diverse as the individuals who embark on it, with each playlist, track, and note playing a critical role in the tapestry of psychedelic-assisted therapy.

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