Guest Posts March 2, 2024

Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy for Veterans and First Responders

KAP for Veterans and First Responders by L.J. Lumpkin III, MA, LMFT
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by L.J. Lumpkin III, LCSW + Journey Clinical KAP Provider

My passion has always been working with veterans and first responders. I come from a military family, and in my work as a licensed mental health professional, I help veterans and first responders work through post-traumatic stress disorder and reduce some of the symptoms that they’ve come back with. 

When working one-on-one in talk therapy, going to the depth and getting past the ego is very difficult. In working with Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) and other psychedelic-assisted treatments I’ve noticed that it allows some space or removal from the ego to be able to dive into the root causes of pain and suffering. These modalities have been the key to unlocking family system trauma for my clients. When someone has empathy within a room and is able to safely connect with their trauma, they’re able to reduce some of their symptoms and articulate what has been happening for them. This has been healing for my clients because it allows them to get support not only from a clinician, but also from their family.

For diverse populations, especially for the BIPOC community who have served in the military, the feeling of being observed or recorded can be scary, so many are nervous to come into a counselor’s office. Sometimes people will even avoid going into a hospital to get services. Being able to use KAP has been beneficial in getting the client to want to come into the sessions and do the work—because they’re seeing changes actually occur.  

Case Study: KAP Treatment for a Veteran/Law Enforcement Client:

One of my clients had a long career as a Marine veteran and a police officer, and sought out KAP for treatment as they approached retirement. They had done talk therapy and couples counseling, but struggled with substance abuse. Alcohol was the norm for them to numb and self-soothe.

In the military, there was space between deployments, which gave my client time to recover a bit from the traumatic experiences they witnessed. There was also a validation of, “I’m in the States, I’m okay”. With law enforcement, however, this client was living in the same neighborhood that they worked in, so when they went out in public, their hyper-vigilance became so increasingly paralyzing that they avoided going to the grocery store or out for celebrations.

This client had their own beliefs around ketamine because they had only known it from the streets and didn’t understand how it could be beneficial. They were curious enough to explore it however, and with that, we were able to do three KAP sessions together.

Outcomes from KAP Treatment:

The client described being able to connect with their old self, the self before the trauma happened, and realize that those experiences were not who they were.

The results from the treatment were remarkable. First, the client was able to be around their kids again, because they didn’t feel like they were going to harm them with their trauma. They were also able to talk with their partner about their feelings, which is taboo within the military culture and law enforcement culture. Specifically, they were able to express their grievances rather than pushing them down as they had been doing for so many years. In the past, expressing themselves would result in blow-ups that scared family members. Being able to get them to a place where they felt validated and able to articulate their feelings in a healthy way was huge. Overall, this experience not only helped this client, but also normalized seeking help for their colleagues and people that they had served with. It was a pebble that created a ripple of healing in that person’s community. 

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L.J. Lumpkin III is a licensed marriage and family therapist practicing in California, between the Carlsbad and San Marcos area by San Diego. He has been practicing for over 10 years and specializes in trauma and anxiety disorders, mainly focused with first responders and diverse populations. L.J. is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University, where he works with trauma and diverse populations and multicultural counseling and practicum.