Timothy Leary and Donald Winnicott could be household names if their reputations were not reserved for both the respectively enlightened and academic circles. But whether you have ever heard of Leary or Winnicott, most likely you are familiar with what it means to both expand your mind and to be in an environment that makes you feel safe. Welcome to the world of the contained and container, content and context, Set and Setting. And welcome to the world where poetry merges with science in a world where the words “Set” and “Setting” in Ketamine infused treatment therapies are there to provide the framework for your journey toward healing and knowledge.
“Set” in these FDA approved therapies refers to the mindset one brings to the experience that is shortened to “Set.” “Setting” refers to the physical and social environment where the treatment is done. Both Set and Setting are instrumental elements of the experience. The mental state and intentionality of the client are crucial factors that aid, abet and guide the outcomes of treatment. Is the client looking to resolve trauma, help with PTSD or depression? Or is the client looking for mind expansion and growth, to elevate their consciousness and feel more at one with themselves and the world. These intentions and beliefs will shape what happens in the room.
What happens in the room stays in the room. That is why the physical environment is a key element in treatment. What is the color of the walls? Are the chairs comfortable? Is there a candle burning, is the window open? Are the people assisting in the treatment making you feel comfortable? Is there a doctor there to alleviate your concerns, to answer questions, and to hold your hand if need be? What is the room in the building like? The list of questions and possible answers are endless. They are endless because each person has different requirements for safety.
Let’s go back to Winnicott and the concept of holding. The holding environment stems from the relationship between the infant and mother. It is both literal and metaphorical. The holding environment in therapy is there to guide the patient through difficult territory and difficult emotions. The holding environment in ketamine therapy must be one that allows the patient to tolerate distress when their emotions get difficult. Distress tolerance is one of the hallmarks of maturation. Growth is a process of collaboration between infant and mother, client and therapist, patient and doctor. In ketamine therapy, growth is a process of collaboration between patient and provider, and between all the patients involved in the group process.
Timothy Leary wrote about the ketamine experience merely acting as a “chemical key” to expand and free the mind of its habitual patterns and structures. He himself said that the experience was almost solely reliant upon the Set and Setting. He talked about mood and personality, and external factors such as weather, social factors and the cultural milieu. Find Ask questions about the people that are with you in the treatment room. Begin the journey with a sense of who these people are. What are their beliefs, opinions, preferences, and tastes? Would you go on vacation with them, and more importantly, would you and could you take a mind-expanding journey with them on ketamine?
Life does not come with a manual. Life offers us opportunities. We can grow or go backwards. Or we can stay still. We can take risks or stay safe. We can also take risks that provide us with safety. Whatever we choose, it is important to make educated decisions that are informed and guided by those who have gone before us and will most likely go after us.
“Set” and “Setting” are not just words in Ketamine infused treatment. They are maps, guideposts and lighthouses. They are islands of safety and islands of growth. It is important to remember that as individuals embarking on the journey of health, wellness, growth and expansion that they are both the door and the key toward liberation. Your “Setting” will enhance the experience or detract from the experience. And if you are embarking on a ketamine journey, you want these factors to be as enhancing as possible.