Three years ago, Adam Boomer’s wife suffered a major concussion. The effects of the injury lasted for months, and she couldn’t drive for a year. The couple sought different treatments. Nothing seemed to help. That was until an acquaintance of Boomer told him about psychedelic-assisted therapy using ketamine, a drug used in medical settings as a general anesthetic but one that can also be illicitly used as a club drug.
Boomer and his wife headed to New Mexico for treatment in early 2021, and, after a few ketamine sessions, she began to get better.
“It was remarkable,” Boomer said.
That experience convinced Boomer, a social worker and therapist in Missoula, to get involved with Harvest Wholeness Center, a new legal psychedelic-assisted therapy center that is having its grand opening this week. Harvest Wholeness Center is Missoula’s first legal psychedelic therapy center and the second in Montana, following Sub Rosa Therapy in Bozeman, which opened in 2021.
Harvest Wholeness Center was founded by the brother-and-sister team Kavan Peterson and Kaley Peterson Burke. The pair also runs Harvest Home Care, which provides non-medical home care to help seniors stay in their own homes as long as possible instead of going to assisted-living facilities or nursing homes. Harvest Home Care opened in 2016.
“We call ourselves nursing home abolitionists because we want an alternative to simply institutionalizing older adults,” Kavan Peterson said.
The pair had been interested in psychedelic-assisted therapy before but decided to finally open a facility in Missoula after their father died suddenly in October 2020. William Peterson died of cancer just 14 days after his diagnosis, in part because of untreated depression, which led him to skip or delay health check-ups. Kavan Peterson hypothesizes that maybe if his father had gotten mental health treatment sooner there could have been a different outcome.
“[I think psychedelic-assisted therapy] is a method that can help people deal with the issue of aging and death, but really people of all ages can benefit from this,” he said. “We think that this is the future of mental health care.”
Ketamine was created in the 1960s and has been used in medical settings in the United States since about the 1970s when it was first marketed as an injectable, short-acting anesthetic. It has also been used to treat depression. What sets ketamine-assisted therapy apart from its other uses is that the drug is used (usually orally via a lozenge) in concert with a multi-hour therapy session led by a specially trained “guide.” Harvest Wholeness Center has eight guides presently, including Kavan, Kaley and Boomer.
Under the watchful eye of a guide, the patient takes a lozenge and then has a psychedelic “trip” that usually lasts anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes. During that, the guide will play music and occasionally let the patient know they are safe by holding their hand. As the drug wears off, the guide might engage in talk therapy with the patient. In total, the experience might take about three hours. Kavan Peterson said the center requires patients to have a safe ride home and usually recommends that they take the rest of the day off.
Presently, ketamine is the only legal drug approved for psychedelic therapy, but Kavan Peterson said other drugs are going through clinical trials and could be approved by the government in the coming years. The major benefit ketamine has, though, aside from being legal, is that it’s short-acting.
“There is a stigma around psychedelics, but [ketamine-assisted therapy] is safe and backed by research,” Kavan Peterson said. “These medicines are a tool to create an opportunity. An opportunity to unlock the door to your consciousness.”
Editors’ note: This story was amended Oct. 28 to correct the wording of a quote by Kavan Peterson.
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