At the KAPER Lab, we study underlying mechanisms and clinical effects of ketamine assisted psychotherapy (KAP) on various neuropsychiatric disorders, namely treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, trauma, substance abuse, and process addiction (pornography, gambling, disordered eating). We also develop, test, and implement new models of KAP, following the NIH Stage Model for Behavioral Intervention Development.



Does affective tactile sensory input modulate negative emotions related to ketamine-induced dissociation? Will this improve the therapeutic experience and, in turn, improve overall depressive symptoms? 



Is it possible for KAP to enhance glutamate-mediated synaptic connectivity in the brain that chronic stress impairs? Can this improve neural signaling to relieve traumatic experiences and strengthen positive ones?



Can properties of KAP override memories that drive addictive tendencies and related behaviors? Will this have the same effect on substance use disorders as process addictions (gambling, pornography, eating disorders)?


OCD | ADHD | Autism

Does KAP attenuate hyperactivity in the corticostriatal circuit to relieve impulsivity, intrusive thoughts, and compulsivity? Will this potentiate synchronization in the brain and extinction-based psychotherapy?


Our Mission, Investigative Objectives & Methodology

The team at Riverwoods Behavioral Health has witnessed, firsthand, psychotherapy adjunct to ketamine being a far superior intervention than ketamine alone. However, ketamine assisted psychotherapy (KAP) is still a new and emerging practice. Its mechanism of action, dissociative and transpersonal effects, and psychotherapeutic components, in particular, are poorly understood. The KAPER Lab was developed in consequence — as a way of studying neurocognitive, behavioral, and clinical aspects of KAP — to translate gained knowledge into better care delivery models to improve health outcomes across the psychiatric continuum. 

A primary focus of our research is evaluating different types of psychotherapy (patient-centered, dialectic, cognitive behavioral) and techniques (mantra, guided discovery, grounding, music) used in KAP. This is a particular interest since ketamine's dissociative properties can evoke both therapeutic (healing, pleasant, soothing) and non-therapeutic (aggregative, undesired, distressing,) psychophysiological responses, otherwise known as a good or bad "trip". So, how do we promote positive experiences during treatment instead of negative ones? That is what our team is determined to find out. In addition, we're exploring ways to increase ethics and standardization around KAP that promote patient safety, security, and welfare. We use a variety of methodological approaches including: surveys, interviews, response coding, randomized experimentation, and physiological measurements via cross-sectional and longitudinal design.