The Hope for Healing Behavioral Health Center opened just a few months ago, and has already welcomed many clients seeking alternative therapies for depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Shelly Christ, a nurse practitioner with 35 years of mental health experience, helms the center, and said it takes a holistic approach to treating mental wellness, including the use of ketamine therapy.
“We found that ketamine is terrible effective for depression, especially treatment-resistant depression,” Christ said, explaining that the center only tries the therapy on people who have tried two other medications, unsuccessfully.
Ketamine, Christ said, often works quickly. The therapy sessions included an IV drip for about 40 minutes, during which patients often experience a dissociative experience.
“Some people say it feels spiritual. You feel a little disconnected from your body. Some people say they feel like they’re flying,” she said.
What’s actually happening, is that it turns on a protein in the brain, called BDNF, which helps neurons regrow after being damaged by stress hormones, like cortisol. Essentially, the “feel good” chemicals in the brain get a boost, which not only help a patient feel relief, but makes them more receptive to other therapies.
“The medicine starts to work more easily, and better,” Christ said. "
The center also offers medication management and cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as a nutritional assessment, and applies any or all of the methods, according to each patient’s needs.
“We like people to work with all of these in conjunction, but everyone is an individual, and we meet them where they are,” Christ said. “We come up with a treatment plan and we go from there.”
The ketamine is also administered in a very low dose (.5mg per Kg of body weight), and the patient is closely monitored. During the treatment, patients have a variety of experiences, but all positive.
“Sometimes they’re laughing, sometimes they’re crying. Sometimes they’re doing both,” Christ said. “Sometimes they appear to be sleeping, entirely peacefully.”
About 20 minutes after the treatment, the drug is no longer in their system, Christ said.
Some patients are concerned about ketamine, because they’ve heard of it in negative contexts, usually abused by recreational users.
“It has a bad rap, because people take massive doses, and who knows where they’re getting it,” Christ said. “In the research, no one has become addicted. You’re fully conscious. You’re aware. When you close your eyes, you can feel ‘out of body,’ but you’re not hallucinating.”
The ketamine treatments have shown to be effective in treatment of addictions including alcoholism and cocaine abuse.
The six treatments are done for just two-to-three weeks, and appointments spaced two-to-three days apart.
“It’s fixing - it’s fixing those dendrites, the endings of those nerves - to re-change your brain to sort-of how it was before those addictions took over,” Christ said. “I’m not saying it’s a miracle, but this can be very successful in people wanting to change that behavior.”
Christ said the holistic approach of the center is in response to how the healthcare system works, and has a more personal touch with their clients.
“When somebody comes in, we want to hear all of their complaints,” she said. “We want to make sure all of your needs are met, as much as possible. Or maybe all of them are connected.”
Christ said she’s seen the success of the center’s programs already.
“We’ve had a lot of people come back and say, ‘This is the best I’ve ever felt,’ or ‘I’ve had depression most of my life and now it’s gone,’” she said. “It’s great. It feels like such a blessing for us, to be a part of it.”
For more information, visit https://hopeforhealingcenter.com/.