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What is Cannabis Assisted Mental Health Therapy?

what is cannabis assisted mental health therapy

In some states, mental health conditions like depression and anxiety are qualifying health conditions. That means it may help patients access doctor-supervised medical cannabis. And there are other types of mental health disorders, such as Tourette’s syndrome and Anorexia.

The idea of doctor-assisted therapy that involves medical cannabis is new. Cannabis-assisted mental health therapy (CAMH) does not involve consuming cannabis before you speak with a licensed therapist. Being high during a therapy session can significantly reduce the positive effects of psychotherapy.

Treatment plans can be developed for patients who have significant and debilitating symptoms stemming from mental health problems. Some studies have suggested that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) exercises at home, while under the influence of cannabis, can help patients unlock deeply rooted trauma and more.

The use of cannabis-assisted psychotherapy could help escalate the therapeutic process for patients. And promote relief of symptoms that result from the inability to express pain, loss, or traumatic experiences. Patients may experience improved mood and heightened self-awareness, demonstrating more progress in resolving their underlying mental health concerns.

In this article, we will discuss some of the potential benefits of combining doctor-supervised medical cannabis with psychotherapy. If you have considered seeking the help of a licensed counselor, you may have one or more qualifying health conditions to apply for a medical cannabis card. And pursue an alternative approach to healing and restoring your mental well-being.

mental health therapy

What is Cannabis Assisted Psychotherapy?

The use of controlled substances as an aid for mental health treatment was almost unheard of fifteen years ago. Since then, however, psychedelic-assisted therapy has become available to patients. Both psilocybin and ketamine treatments are available today, both in a clinical setting and at home, for the treatment of mental disorders.

Clinically supervised via telemedicine or by an in-office practitioner, the patient engages in a psychedelic experience with a controlled dose of ketamine or psilocybin. Then after the effects have worn off, patients receiving psychedelic therapies receive counseling. Or they may be instructed to journal what they experienced, including recall of past traumatic experiences.

Cannabis-assisted therapy is different than psychedelic therapy, however. Licensed therapists can assign at-home activities for patients to help further their treatment and progress. That can include journaling their thoughts while under the influence of cannabis or completing a worksheet with specific questions that may guide treatment for them.

Finding a cannabis-assisted psychotherapist used to be impossible. It is challenging to find a psychotherapist or counselor willing to integrate medical cannabis-assisted psychotherapy, but there are many who can provide the service. They will not, however, allow the consumption of cannabis during a therapeutic session.

cannabis and psychedelic resorts therapy

Cannabis and Psychedelic Therapeutic Retreats

In countries like Canada, Costa Rico, and Jamaica, you can receive a cannabis-assisted psychotherapy session (or more than one) legally on a resort. That is a hotel or spa that employs medical practitioners to supervise visitors who plan on using alternative medicine to promote wellness.

Some of the benefits indicated by reviews or feedback from individuals who have used psychedelic or cannabis retreats include:

1. Healing and Transformation

Alternative medicine retreats and resorts provide structured therapeutic sessions in a supportive, judgment-free environment. Participants may get advice on optimizing each therapy session, with instruction on how to navigate emotions and memories that are challenging.

Individuals can learn how to ask themselves questions and dig deep to learn more about the root causes of their anxiety or depression and work toward trauma resolution. Cannabis and psychedelic-assisted therapy retreats also allow people time to discuss their insights and emotions with licensed counselors.

2. Enhanced Self-Reflection and Emotional Insights

The hectic nature of daily life, including work and responsibilities at home, can make it difficult to spend quiet time in self-reflection. But those peaceful moments of relaxation and introspection are exactly what is needed to start understanding (and then treating) psychological distress symptoms.

Getting away from it all to spend time on yourself is valuable. Some people are able to do this at home, but if that has not worked in the past, sequestering yourself in a beautiful, peaceful, and quiet location can help advance treatment for mental health disorders. And gain understanding and new skills to adapt to emotional needs more effectively.

3. Assistance from Experienced Guides

When you begin to do self-reflection exercises, the memories and upsetting experiences can come flooding back. And trauma may feel like you are experiencing emotional pain all over again, even if it happened many years ago.

Therapists can help with talk therapy, where patients can share those memories and their feelings. Experienced psychotherapists can also help prepare individuals for the discomfort of working through past traumas so that patients do not become overwhelmed or distressed.

4. Group Therapy and Connection to Mental Health Community

While the understanding of mental health conditions has advanced significantly in the past twenty years, there is still a prevailing social stigma. Group therapy sessions not only allow for sharing but a connection with other patients who are experiencing the same difficulties due to emotional pain or trauma.

It may help individuals understand that mental health challenges are medical conditions that can be positively addressed with the help of therapists and physicians. The communal nature of cannabis and psychedelic medicine retreats can foster a sense of belonging, support, and understanding.

emotional regulation

5. Safe and Controlled Environment

If you have never used cannabis before, you may feel more comfortable using it medicinally when you are in a safe environment. Medical care is available, and supervision to provide patients with increased safety and support should they experience any difficulties.

6. Exposure to Other Self-Care Practices and Treatment Modalities

There are many holistic practices that can help provide relief for patients with mental health needs. That includes yoga, art therapy, nature immersion, and breathwork (deep breathing exercises) which can help lower stress and anxiety and promote wellness.

Could Cannabis Help With Cognitive Behavioral and Talk Therapy?

Opinions about cannabis and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are divided. Some studies suggest that a cannabis-assisted psychotherapy session (where the patient consumes before attending the appointment) can be counterproductive. Primarily, the concern is that patients can have more difficulty focusing while under the influence of cannabis.

Other studies suggest that cannabis-assisted psychotherapy can be helpful if a treatment plan is designed to provide relief from anxiety, depression, or other symptoms at home. This may be true for individuals with moderate to severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or comorbid depression.

While cannabis is not considered to have a high potential for physical addiction, it can be psychologically addictive. Patients suffering from moderate to severe mental health symptoms have the potential to become emotionally dependent on medical cannabis. Particularly if they are in substance abuse disorder (SUD) recovery.

There are nine ways that doctor-supervised medical cannabis may help patients with mood or psychological disorders:

1. Relaxation and Anxiety Reduction

Some mental health symptoms translate into moderate to severe anxiety. Patients who suffer from anxiety are frequently exhausted by their own non-stop worries, negative self-talk, and criticism. Some people may not be aware that anxiety is a medical condition. All they know is that they are constantly on edge, overthinking, recycling negative thoughts, and unable to relax or clear their head.

One way to describe anxiety, if you have never experienced it, is with a chalkboard. The average person without anxiety may have 3-7 things written on the chalkboard of their mind every day. They can be things they need to do, problems they must resolve, scheduled activities, work or home obligations, and more. At the end of the day, for most people, that blackboard is wiped clean, and they can go to sleep feeling few to no items are left undone.

When you have anxiety, that blackboard resembles something more like a college-sized, multiple layer and large surface. With every inch of the boards covered with things to do. Things that have not been done. Things that may have been forgotten, or negative narratives (usually about oneself).

Both the past, present and future items are scrawled over the blackboard of the mind for someone who has anxiety. With no hope of resolving any of the issues, the volume (and number of concerns) grows steadily. And it is an exhausting psychological burden and repetitive cycle that causes many debilitating symptoms, including muscle pain (tension), headaches, irritability, and frustration, as well as high levels of emotional stress.

Some strains of cannabis can provide psychoactive effects that address stress and anxiety. Cannabis can promote relaxation, and strains that are high in cannabidiol (CBD) can also help reduce inflammation. This may help lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and help patients feel calmer and more relaxed.


2. Emotional Regulation

Many mental health conditions can cause irritability, anger, and bouts of extreme sadness. Some disorders like bipolar or ADHD can cause moods to cycle from high levels of mania and energy to low levels with symptoms of fatigue and depression.

When you are feeling high levels of emotional reactivity, it can be very difficult to do investigations into why you may be expressing anger, sadness, lethargy, or mania. The emotions can be so significant that you may focus on what you are experiencing right now and how you feel without digging down to ask questions like “Why am I feeling this way?” or “What happened to make me feel like this?”

Some strains of cannabis can be cerebral and relaxing. Typically, they are Indica dominant strains, which may allow your body to feel relaxed but maintain your ability to be introspective. And have a calm conversation with yourself about your mindset and emotional triggers. Slowing down the worrying thoughts sufficiently enough to allow for moments of self-compassion and thoughtful self-care.

We are all able to do exercises of critical thinking and problem-solving when we are in a calm state of mind. And less likely to put up defensive communication blocks rooted in self-protection. When emotions are running high, very little in-depth critical thinking can occur. And often, if we feel we are out of sorts with our mood, it can cause us to feel worse about ourselves for having a mood or energy variance that others might consider abnormal.

3. Enhanced Introspection

Some may believe that a therapist or licensed counselor has one job; to find out what is wrong with you. But cognitive behavioral therapy is really a chance to get help to ask yourself the right questions. And therapy may lead you down a path of kind introspection, where you can learn more about yourself.

Introspection is the ability to be calm and do some inner work and investigation. Cannabis may help patients achieve that calm, relaxed state that may be devoid of self-criticism and allow real emotional breakthroughs to occur.

Cannabis can sometimes induce a heightened sense of introspection, enabling individuals to delve deeper into their thoughts and emotions. This self-reflective state may support the introspective elements of therapy, allowing for increased self-awareness and insight.

Facilitated Memory Recall

Difficult, painful, or traumatic memories can be buried by the human brain. This process of repression is a defense mechanism where upsetting thoughts and memories can be filed away automatically. This helps individuals who have experienced trauma live a normal life, and they are unaware of the repressed painful experiences.

However, while the trauma remains locked in the unconscious mind, it can still cause problems. Subliminally, the trauma still exists, and it can cause social behaviors and physiological symptoms that can cause difficulty.

Some of the most common signs of repressed traumatic experiences include:

  • Moderate to severe anxiety.
  • Fatigue and exhaustion.
  • Unexplained and strong emotional reactions to certain people.
  • Extreme emotional variances and mood shifts.
  • Lower stress tolerance.
  • Recurrent nightmares or upsetting dreams.
  • Attachment issues (inability to form attachments to others).
  • Abandonment issues (fear of ending relationships).

Some cannabis strains may provide anxiety relief, relaxation, and a deeply cerebral psychoactive effect. That encourages deep thinking, which may help some traumatic memories surface. Or at least provide hints about the source of traumas that are currently impacting the mental health of the patient.

4. Help With Chronic Pain Symptoms

Experiencing moderate to severe chronic pain on a frequent or daily basis can impact mental health. A patient can experience anxiety, not knowing when they will experience pain symptoms. Or how difficult the pain symptoms will be to manage.

When an individual is pain-focused, it can be difficult to work on mental health needs and self-care. If medical cannabis helps provide someone with relief from pain, they may be able to engage in therapy with a licensed counselor more effectively.

5. Stress Reduction

When you are feeling stressed, are you more likely to isolate yourself or seek a conversation? It is very normal for people suffering from high levels of stress to effectively shut down and become quiet. Stressors from work, family or home life, health conditions.

Cannabis, particularly strains with calming properties, may help reduce stress levels. By mitigating stress, individuals can enter therapy sessions with a more relaxed mindset, allowing them to better absorb new perspectives and adopt self-compassion while engaging in therapeutic interventions.

6. Aid in Trauma Processing

Human trauma is psychologically structured like an onion. There are layers of experiences, self-perceptions, blame, guilt, and other emotions and self-critical inner narratives that can obscure the true source(s) of pain and trauma.

For many people, cannabis not only contributes to bodily relaxation but it can also help sedate worrisome thoughts. Medical cannabis can’t resolve emotional issues alone, but it may help gently remove the layers that are obstructing healing and trauma resolution. And allow a patient to progress with therapeutic support to achieve their mental health goals.

sleep improvement

7. Sleep Improvement

Whether a patient is experiencing overt symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or side effects from suppressed traumatic memories, chronic insomnia may be one of the persistent symptoms they experience. Lack of sleep can amplify mood disorders and compromise immune system functions and overall health.

Sleep disturbances can negatively impact mental health. Some individuals find that certain strains of cannabis can help improve sleep quality, contributing to overall well-being and creating a foundation for effective therapy.

Indica-dominant cannabis strains can have a sedative effect. For people who also suffer from pain-related sleep disruptions, it can also help improve deep uninterrupted sleep. When sleep cycles are balanced, it may also have a positive effect on mood regulation.

8. Promotion of Mindfulness

People who suffer from anxiety, trauma, or depression may have dysphoria that is not related to the present moment but upsetting memories from the past or fears about the future. Some people who use cannabis claim that it helps them focus on the present tense or moment.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may include exercises to improve mindfulness and focus on self-care, relaxation, happiness, and self-empathy. Therapists may also recommend cannabis-assisted meditation for self-reflection and relaxation.

What is DocMJ Cares?

Our team at DocMJ is focused on providing quality cannabis healthcare services to our patients. We know that for many people, traditional psychotherapy is expensive and inaccessible. And often, patients apply for doctor-supervised medical cannabis to address symptoms and difficulties associated with mental health.

DocMJ Cares provides affordable telemedicine therapeutic care for patients. At the time of writing, our licensed counselors can assist patients in Florida and Ohio. Get caring counseling and a treatment plan to help you reach your wellness goals with DocMJ Cares.




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