Local veteran finds new healing with ketamine assisted psychotherapy

Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 10:25 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2023 at 10:30 PM CST

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - A local veteran from North Kansas City is finding new healing from what is usually thought of as an illegal party drug.

Crystal Clark said ketamine assisted psychotherapy, or KAP, sessions are changing her life. She invited KCTV5 to attend a session.

“It’s just this feeling of expansion,” Clark said.

Clark is an Army Veteran and former defense contractor for the Army. She served two tours to Iraq, one in 2004 and 2008. She served as a defense contractor following her service, mostly in Afghanistan.

“When I came home from Afghanistan in 2014, I just more or less had a breakdown,” said Clark.

Clark is an Army National Guard Veteran. She served on and off in the Middle East for 10 years.(Provided to KCTV5 News)

Like many of whom return from the war zone, she suffered from intense anger and anxiety -- PTSD.

“I had a deep fear of being judged,” Clark said. “I would filter everything I said through three layers.”

Clark even turned to drugs to cope after returning home from her first tour in Iraq in 2005.

“Cocaine was my go-to,” she said. “It was just a way to numb out.”

She even considered giving up.

“I didn’t want to die, but I was exhausted,” the veteran said. “I wanted my anxiety to stop.”

She tried everything from medication to traditional therapy. Eventually, she landed at the door of Anne Bethune at KAP KC.

“Your mind is the medicine,” Bethune said.

Bethune is a clinical social worker who was one of the first in the Midwest to offer KAP sessions.

“It was just this sense of, ‘We have to do better if there’s something out there, something that can help more people,’” Bethune said.

Born out of the 1960s, ketamine was used as a battlefield anesthetic in Vietnam and Afghanistan. The ketamine works as a portal, allowing clients to enter into what’s called a stream of consciousness.

“It’s a trip. You can feel like you’re out of body, you’re moving through air,” Bethune explained. “They know they’re here but they’re very much in their head.”

It’s unclear how ketamine works, but it is believed to boost feel-good chemicals. Studies show it allows the brain to form neural pathways, and create new habits and behaviors.

“It gives you access to the possibility that you can be free from these limiting beliefs, you can feel connected to something bigger than yourself that feels hopeful,” Bethune said.

Bethune said unlocking that hope provides the mindset for a clean slate.

“They come back and say, ‘Everything’s really OK,’” Bethune said. “So, this is a reset. It doesn’t wipe out the memory. It doesn’t wipe out the experience.”

“If I had to describe the time before ketamine, I would say nervous, neurotic, out of control, messy and aggressive,” Clark said.

Crystal is now on her fourth KAP session. She said the treatments have allowed her to leave the past behind.

“Things have really changed,” Clark said. “Now I’m responsive, as opposed to reactive. Spacious as in I have more space for compulsions that were always like anger. I have more harmony, flow, and peace.”

She’s even telling her story for the public to hear.

“I had a deep fear of being judged!” Crystal said. “Let this be a testament to the power of psychedelics.”

Ketamine treatments run about $500-$800 per session. They are generally not covered by insurance.

Known side effects can include: Changes in blood pressure, changes in mood, nausea, and drowsiness.

Bethune said to use caution if you’re interested in ketamine treatments.

“The centers are popular, especially since the pandemic,” Bethune said. “Make sure you go to one backed by clinical professionals. You need someone who can help you respond in a therapeutic way.”

The KAP session also requires an intake session where the patient’s maladies, goals, and intentions are assessed. You will also need a prescription from a physician for the ketamine.