‘they are at the top of their game’ – Review

Other than a few teething problems with the initial booking system my entire experience with Klearwell was exceptional in terms of care, quality and, at this point (4 weeks after my last ketamine experience), outcomes, mood and changes in thought patterns.

I approached the clinic, having spent several decades on a range of antidepressants/hormonal treatments and having tried several talking therapies, including CBT and psychotherapy, as well as EMDR, none of which seemed to resolve my problem. As a psychologist myself, I kept up with research in the field of mental health and was excited to see that KAT was available in the UK.

My mood disorder, a combination of social anxiety, panic attacks, and depression that I had experienced for 25 years plus a recent ADHD diagnosis, wasn’t easy to categorize, and I was fed up with feeling that I couldn’t really enjoy life like other people seemed to be able to. On one of my first calls, Dominic, one of the therapists (who I was eventually assigned to), immediately put me at ease, answering all of my initial questions. Coming from a scientific background, I had done a lot of reading of academic papers on KAT and I did have a lot of questions which, I felt, were answered fully by the professionals I met and spoke to. When there wasn’t data to support an outcome, the clinic was transparent, and I appreciated this.

Whilst it is an expensive treatment, at no point did I feel it was being ‘sold’ to me, which ensured I felt that the clinicians and other staff had my best interests at heart and would have told me if I didn’t have the right ‘profile’ to undergo treatment. Once my queries were answered, I attended the clinic in person, where I was greeted by several very friendly and warm nurses who were reassuring and provided tea and small talk, which put me at ease. I then had a two-hour meeting with the onsite psychiatrist, who I found warm, credible and authentic and who answered any questions I had in a thoughtful and knowledgeable manner. I was then allocated my therapist, Dominic, who I worked with for the following 12 sessions, 2 of which were preparation sessions, 4 dosing sessions and 4 talking therapy sessions with a final closing session. Although nervous about the ketamine experience, I felt reassured that I was in a safe environment, being looked after by medical professionals. By the time I underwent the ketamine treatment, I was excited more than scared due to the thorough preparatory sessions.

The experience of ketamine is not something that you can put into words; needless to say, it is unlike anything I had ever experienced before and, happily for me, was an entirely positive and utterly mind-blowing experience. It was, in no way, frightening. Whilst I don’t know how important the tangible experiences and hallucinations in the dosing sessions are to the efficacy of the treatment, I had a marked change in mood immediately following my sessions and this was sustained by the skillful use of Compassion Focused Therapy. I felt very comfortable exploring challenging thoughts and early life experiences and couldn’t have hoped for a better therapist. Four weeks on, I still feel better, partly because my mood seems lighter but primarily, I think, because I feel I have learnt a set of tools that allow me to cope with uncomfortable and unpleasant thoughts and what I now recognise as my firmly embedded inner-critic. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t had difficult thoughts, I have, but perhaps less so, and now I feel better equipped to deal with these; I hold onto them more lightly and don’t get quite so attached to what would have previously been cyclical ruminations.

This isn’t a ‘take a pill’ miracle cure but, instead, a shift in the way that I see the world, in how I think about myself and in how I cope with and defuse some of the frightening thoughts that had before felt both overwhelming and an inescapable part of being me. I now realise that they are just thoughts, and I have learnt methods for letting them be, as opposed to trying to get rid of them and just not getting so involved in them.

My children and partner have noticed a change in me – apparently, I am less ‘shouty’, warmer and more engaged and present. I have my fingers crossed that if I turn to this toolkit during tough times but also keep up the practices when things are good, I will continue to build my resilience. I found the team at Klearwell to be flexible and person-focused, for example, I have decided to have some further therapy sessions with Dominic so that I can be held to account on my practices and have the safety-net of someone to talk through any bumps I encounter on the road over the next few months. Some of this will be face-to-face, some online.

I hope to be able to report continued improvement over the next few months, but at this point in time, I would certainly recommend this treatment for those who have experienced years of mental anguish and have tried several different medications. Whereas several of the 9 different SSRI’s/SNRI’s I have tried over the years had moderate success because they numbed me to the bad and the good, the CBT tried to rationalise an irrational mind and the psychoanalysis encouraged me to blame my upbringing, KAT seems to be a treatment that fosters growth in the recipient, allowing me to learn new skills in terms of managing my thoughts and emotions.

As such, I very much hope (and suspect) that this type of treatment will become more prevalent and available, particularly in a field where there have been few new drugs or therapies of note since the 1990’s. Klearwell is at the forefront of this potential revolution, and if my experience is anything to go by, they are at the top of their game in terms of care, support and outcomes.