Mental fitness strategist, podcaster, and Personal Socrates author Marc Champagne joined Beatrice Society for a conversation about his experience with ketamine therapy and how he sees it intersecting with his mental fitness practice. Champagne partnered with Beatrice Society’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tatiana Zdyb to experience ketamine therapy according to Zdyb’s TRIP Protocol, which involves intention-setting, talk therapy, and a post-session integration discussion that allows the patient to reflect on and interpret any insights they gained during the session.
We asked Champagne about what drew him to ketamine therapy, what takeaways he left the experience with, and where he sees intersection points between psychedelic therapy and mental fitness.
While we can try to go into an experience like ketamine therapy without any preconceptions, our brain sometimes gets the better of us. Even though you undertook this with an open and enthusiastic mind, did you have any preformed ideas, fears, or thoughts about what the experience was going to be like?
I don’t think I had fears, but I was nervous for sure. This was the first time I had done anything like this. The biggest challenge for me, especially coming at it from a mental fitness perspective, was not to go in with a bunch of set intentions. The only research I had done before going into experience was watching Michael Pollan’s Netflix documentary [How To Change Your Mind]. So I had an idea of what’s possible. I was initially starting to go in like, ‘Okay, I have a clear intention that I want to get out of it.’ But then as I kept journaling about the process, I said, ‘You know what, I’m just gonna go in with one intention, and that’s to get clear and see what happens from that point.’
To set ourselves up for really the best experience is to go in as clear as possible. I did journaling though and I journaled on questions like, ‘Who am I right now?’ and ‘Who am I striving to become?’ so that mentally I had some clarity around that before the experience.
There’s kind of a therapy mindset where we go in for a very specific reason. Like, ‘I’m here to deal with Problem X.’ And that’s hard to let go of.
Yeah, it doesn’t feel natural, at least in terms of how we’ve been programmed and in terms of the current services that are out there. So for this, it does take an open mind. Go in curious.
Intentions aside, did you want to try ketamine therapy for a specific reason or motivation?
Yeah, for sure. I’m part of a men’s group and we talk every couple weeks. And I always felt that everyone in the group was coming in with some kind of Capital T childhood trauma, which then would at least explain some of the things that they struggled with. From what I could remember, I never really had any of that kind of trauma in childhood. I had a very loving household and thankfully grew up very well supported. But like everyone else I have limiting beliefs and internal narratives that loop. And I felt like, ‘Where is that coming from?’
Once you’ve got the data, you can make some course corrections.
Was there a specific piece of guidance or cue or piece of advice that Dr. Zdyb gave you either before your experience or during that you recall that had an especially meaningful impact for you?
I’ve thought about this and I think it’s more of the feeling of a safe space that she created. Throughout the whole journey there were these small things that really mattered. Like, I would receive questions from her before just saying, ‘If any of your family members want to speak with me or have questions please feel free to give them my number’ or ‘Are there any fears or nervousness or anxiety around what you’re about to experience?’
So then when I arrived, I just felt automatically very comfortable because I felt supported in that sense. Like that we were treating the medicine experience with respect. That had a really profound effect and also allowed me to go a little bit deeper and just be open for whatever was going to come up.
Could you talk a bit more about the actual experience? Do you feel like you have a clear memory of it or what does it look like when you look back on it?
I imagine this may be different for everyone in the sense of individual experiences. I know I had a little bit of a lower dose than normal because I was responding quite quickly. But in my experience, I remember all of it. And what was really interesting, as soon as the medicine started to kick in, I immediately started to feel lighter, physically lighter.
I was sitting on a really comfortable chair and had an eye mask on. I was really in my own kind of zone essentially. And then as things really started to kick in it almost felt like I was floating in a way. The only way I can describe it is that it feels like (and not in a weird anxious way) but it feels like you’re in kind of two different worlds. I knew that she was there asking me questions, but at the same time I was in this other realm that felt like it was moving very fast. And you’re almost physically [experiencing] feelings or emotions shifting around and energy going up and down. As we’re going through the conversation it felt like this mudslide of releasing emotion and everything just unlocked.
The whole experience felt like going through a series of emotions. I remember all of that as I was going through it. Especially answering some of her questions, I was consciously thinking, ‘Oh, I hope I remember this because these are some of the things I’d like to share with my family.’ And I remember all of it.
In your podcast with Dr. Zdyb, she says that “we’re consciously confused and subconsciously controlled” which connects with what you talk about in terms of mental fitness. Did that have an impact on you when she said that?
Just hearing it back from you now actually makes a lot of sense in terms of what I experienced because yeah, consciously I was confused trying to understand where some of my thought patterns were coming from. And subconsciously I had no idea where that was coming from. This was the big takeaway for me. There are some details from my childhood that probably outside looking in would look really minimal. But as she was asking the questions, all of a sudden there were these really clear moments. Like, I remember being kind of caught in the middle of verbal fights with my parents and almost being a mediator in a way. I could feel those emotions just as vividly as when I was a little kid. For me, that’s what medicine brought to the surface. And then we were to go a little bit deeper and start to unpack things, bringing a little bit more control or clarity to that normal state of subconscious confusion, as she says.
Do you feel like you brought any sort of useful toolkit or mental device out of this experience?
I do. I had an integration call a few days after and I was able to get Tatiana’s perspective on things, which was very helpful. I would say what I left with was a sense of reassurance. There were a few things that surfaced that I had no recollection of and now that I know that those come back up, whether they’re limiting beliefs or internal dialogues, I’ve found that I can pause it, [realize] where it’s from, and adjust. This is where I think there’s a lot of room for growth and where mental fitness comes in.
That’s where I think there could be some work on the integration piece and the mental fitness side of things, at least with my work specifically. Like slowly entering into that realm and adjusting your routine and your rituals to bring in some practices grounded and fueled by the insights that arise from any kind of trip that you may go through.