IFS-Ketamine-Assisted Group for Couples
The IFS-Ketamine Assisted Group for Couples is a unique, cutting-edge experience that helps couples learn how to identify, slow down, and de-escalate protective emotional reactions during conflict.
Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a powerful method of understanding the mind’s natural multiplicity (parts or subpersonalities), and is an evidenced-based psychotherapy for healing trauma and emotional development. Ketamine is an FDA-approved treatment for psychiatric symptoms associated with depression and can dramatically reverse patterns of avoidance, anxiety/panic, emotional overwhelm, numbness, and hopelessness. Combining IFS with ketamine in a group experience brings together three of the most powerful and effective strategies to create a deeply transformative and healing experience.
Connection Within Leads to Connection Between
The goals of this group are very similar to the content presented in the Mindful Marriage IFS Course for Couples, previously presented by Keith Miller.
Unlike typical couples therapy interventions, which focus on building strength in the attachment between each partner (communication skills, kindness, etc.), the IFS-Ketamine-Assisted Group for Couples will focus on “Self-leadership” of your internal parts (mental habits, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs). Having a stable attachment to others depends on your ability to stabilize and care for your inner sub-personalities and their frequent conflicts (for example, a caretaker, procrastinator, and perfectionist parts). De-escalating inner polarities inherently leads to greater poise, tact, courage and ingenuity, all useful resources for resolving outer conflicts.
Required reading before the group is Richard Schwartz’s book No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model.
Bootcamp for Transforming Shame and Fear into Connection
The main aim of this group will be to immediately relieve burdens of shame, overwhelm, fear, and hopelessness carried by your hardest-working protective parts—the parts of you that manage the day-to-day business of partnership—with little time for authentic intimacy. Besides being guided by a twenty-year veteran couples therapist, you will have an incredibly powerful and reliable neurological assistant: Ketamine.
Ketamine: A catalyst for healing
Ketamine has been widely and safely used in emergency and surgical anesthesia applications for 50 years. Used in therapeutic psychiatry since 2006 in research, and in recent years with FDA-approval, ketamine can bestow upon its benefactor a remarkable sense of clarity and calm, confidence and creativity.
We will use ketamine to greatly expand self-awareness, reduce typical shame and fear reactions to strong emotional content, and improve your ability to accept yourself and accept your partner. Without being flooded with vulnerability or dominated by a protective reaction, healing can begin. You will have the wider vision to see pain or discomfort as the opportunities they can truly be, and to experience yourself as more alive, sensitive, and resourceful.
Opening New Windows: Altered perceptions and side-effects of Ketamine
A rare side-effect of ketamine is nausea which can be managed by fasting in the hours before a journey, and be the use of an anti-nausea medication, which we can prescribe.
So-called psychedelic hallucinations are also referred to by scientists as a “side-effect” of ketamine. In psychiatric and personal growth uses, however, it is these very altered perceptions that our group will use to great benefit for your relationship.
Although ketamine is not a “classic psychedelic,” and is technically a “disassociative anesthetic,” most people do have vivid, altered sensory experiences. Neuroscientists hypothesize that the psychedelic effects of a medicine like ketamine cause the brain’s hierarchical organization (rigid associations, beliefs, feelings, and thoughts such as “the sky is blue”) to loosen and temporarily dis-associate (“the sky is an ocean,” or “I am the sky.”) According to their model, psychedelics reduce the brain’s reliance on prior beliefs about the world. Learn more about How Psychedelics Open a New Window on the Mechanisms of Perception.
Our group will exploit ketamine’s powerful ability to open the brain’s programing, to change inflexible narratives about yourself and your partner, and to increase your cognitive and emotional flexibility.
The process: What will happen in our group time?
Much of our group processing time will focus on preparing for and sharing about your journey experiences with ketamine. Whenever possible, I will teach IFS concepts and ask you to work with your own parts during group meditations, exercises, and in between sessions. If volunteers oblige, you may have the chance to work with me facilitating your parts work, in front of the group. You can learn more about the concept of “parts” and “working with parts” by watching Richard Schwartz speak about it, below.
Each couple will have the experience of getting support from the group as they courageously move towards vulnerability and flow (curiosity, clarity, compassion, courage) at moments of high distress instead of getting locked into protective rigidity (defensiveness, selfishness, confusion, fear.)
"...it turns out that we are all multiple."
A powerful tool to disrupt projection: The You-Turn
I will teach and facilitate what is called the “You-Turn,” a technique designed to interrupt the intimacy-robbing pattern known as projection. Projection is the unsolicited attribution of your feelings onto the other, in a reflexive protective response.
For example, imagine that you feel intense anxiety and pressure about a report you’ve been asked to produce for your boss. At dinner, your partner asks you to pass the ketchup and you explode with irritation, “Why can’t you get it yourself?” By fixating on your partner, you’ve bypassed the harder work of sorting out, befriending, and speaking for your own feelings.
In our group, I’ll encourage best practices for relationship-orientated behavior (empathy, kindness, honesty, communication, forgiveness) but these skills won’t be taught directly. It is my experience that healthy between-partner behaviors naturally increase once each partner is given the chance to get a hold of themselves (the You-Turn), and allow the body to get in sync with the mind. Once you’ve opened up more clarity, calm, and connection within you through the You-Turn, then you are ready for what we call the ReTurn, which is dialogue with your partner.
In this group, you will have all the most powerful tools to support you in that work.
Who am I in conflict?
Rather than focusing on how to behave as a couple, (something taught in most conventional relationship enhancement programs), this unique group will exclusively focus on each partner’s internal mental habits, specifically addressing the question, “Who am I in conflict?”
It is during conflict that your most human and relatable sense of you—what IFS calls “Self”— disappears. Your primitive brain stem kicks into gear and stimulates parts of you that we call “protectors.”
Protector parts value self-protection over your whole system’s best interest. Like the military issuing martial law, your inner army of protective parts take charge of managing relations with your partner. Predictably, your partner’s army of protectors must march out to meet yours. In the blink of an eye, gone is the child-like playfulness, creativity, hopefulness, and vibrance that once flowed between the two of you. Unless both sides can get relief from the stress of being in conflict, qualities essential for growth–trust, curiosity, and hope—get exiled, leaving increasingly fewer reasons for wanting to make the relationship “home.”
Format of the group
The consensus in psychiatry for the use of ketamine is to repeat doses in a relatively short interval for optimal benefits. Our group will have a ketamine experience once per month for four consecutive months. At the end of this four-month period, there may be an option for another four-month session. Individual and couples therapy support can be arranged on a case-by-case basis with your facilitator, with or without additional ketamine experiences.
Sublingual ketamine is self-administered, following our physician’s instructions, and held under the tongue for about 5 minutes. This is followed by lying silently for 60 minutes in large room together. A comfortable cot, pillow, eye shades and weighted blankets are provided. We strongly encourage each person to have headphones or earbuds and a playlist of instrumental music. Noise-cancelling headphones that fit over the head are preferred.
Fri, June 16, 7-9pm, Zoom Introduction and onboarding
Sat, June 17, 9am-12pm, Ketamine experience
Thurs, June 29, 7-9pm, Zoom integration group
Sat, July 15, 9am-12pm, Ketamine experience
Thurs, July 27, 7-9pm, Zoom integration group
Sat, August 12, 9am-12pm, Ketamine experience
Thurs, August 24, 7-9pm, Zoom integration group
Sat, September 9, 9am-12pm, Ketamine experience
Thurs, September 21, 7-9pm, Zoom integration group
Early Registration (prior to June 1st): Cost per couple is $750 per month, for four months, ($3000 total). This includes a medical screening with Dr. Leonardo Vando.
Standard Registration (after June 1st): $770 per month, per couple, each month for four months.
Refunds: Prior to June 7th a refund, less $500, will be given. After June 7th, there are no refunds.
Payment of the full amount (all four sessions) is expected even in the event that you cannot attend one of the dates. Payments may be made once per month or you may pay in full.
Meetings will be held at our new office space at 4300 Montgomery, Avenue, Bethesda, MD
About Your Teacher: Keith Miller, LICSW
I’m a social worker with 20 years of clinical experience as a psychotherapist in private practice. Since 2007, I’ve been the owner and Clinical Director of Keith Miller Counseling, a private practice that has provided mental health and couples counseling to thousands of people. In 2022, since a majority of our clients and staff preferred remote therapy, we closed our Dupont Circle location to focus on in-person care in Bethesda. In February, 2023 I founded Calliope Health Ketamine, offering ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.
I completed my Level I training in Internal Family Systems therapy in 2008, going on to become a Certified IFS therapist, and completed Level III and Advanced IFIO (Intimacy from the Inside-Out, IFS-for-couples, training.
I’ve been a national speaker and educator on the topic of mindfulness in psychotherapy and am the author of several books on personal growth and relationships, including many free webinars and courses, and Love Under Repair: How to Save Your Marriage and Survive Couples Therapy. I regularly teach my course for couples, Mindful Marriage, a mindfulness-based and IFS curriculum for relationship enhancement. In 2021, I started the psychology and spirituality podcast, The Soul of Life.