By: Savannah Awde – The Daily Gleaner
Some people living with severe mental illness won’t respond to typical treatments, such as antidepressants or psychotherapy – and that’s where a new psychedelic-assisted therapy clinic in Fredericton hopes to come in.
Dave Muise had been manager of a similar clinic just outside of the city, run by Field Trip, before the company decided to shut the location down. But Muise said that left a gap for Atlantic Canadians with treatment resistant forms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. So he teamed up with eVisitNB CEO and co-founder Dr. Hanif Chatur, and psychiatrist Dr. Mark Johnston who owns the True North Therapy clinics, to open NuVista Psychedelic Assisted Therapy.
It will debut in the capital region next week, with the six-dose, six-session “entry point” for treatment priced at about $4,000. Muise noted that is cheaper than what was offered at Field Trip, and believes it is more aligned with the Atlantic Canada market.
The treatment uses ketamine, frequently used as an anesthetic in operation rooms. At low doses, he said, it’s been shown to have a psychedelic effect that can allow a client to open up more easily during therapy.
Having been a psychiatrist for 20 years, Johnston said he’s seen clients put up “walls” than can interfere with therapy work in a variety of ways.
“If you take the example of someone with PTSD, maybe they were in a village in Afghanistan, and they saw a child killed. And it was devastating for them, and now they can’t even actually talk about it,” he said. “Drilling down and uncovering those emotions that are tied to it sometimes it’s extremely difficult…Even though you kind of know you should, you still can’t quite go there. And as soon as someone tries to go there, you get anxious and you shut down. “You don’t want to talk about it, you change the topic, you leave the room. I’ve seen it all, in terms of how people respond to questions that start to really dig at the core issues.”
What clinicians are finding with ketamine, he said, is that many patients who receive a low dose find it easier to discuss emotionally difficult topics. “What therapists who have done with with both non-psychedelic treated patients and the psychedelic-treated patients, they’ll generally say, it’s a heck of a lot easier to get at the meat of the problem when you’re dealing with someone who has received ketamine.” That’s why, unlike some other clinics in the industry, the Fredericton facility pairs ketamine doses with therapy sessions within 48 hours.
Eventually, Muise said, the clinic hopes to travel around the province and meet the patients where they are to avoid logistical and travel barriers.