Unlocking Intimacy: Cultivating Joy and Connection Through Ketamine-Assisted Mindfulness Retreats for Couples

May 9, 2024

By Isabelle McKenzie

Is your committed relationship suffering from depression? Loss of connection and intimacy? Do you want to stay together yet feel stuck and frustrated?

This seems to be the norm today, especially with couples that have been together for more than seven years. When couples begin navigating the opportunities available to them to facilitate a reconnection and deepening of their relationship, they might first think of traditional couples’ therapy or romantic getaways for couples. While both have their own value, a new modality is emerging as a promising option: ketamine-assisted couples’ retreats. This type of retreat format can often help facilitate a profound exploration of self and your connection with a partner in a safe, structured, carefully curated setting surrounded by nature and facilitated by relationship experts.

What Is a Mindfulness Based Ketamine-Assisted Relationship Retreat and how could it be useful for couples?

In recent years, the field of psychedelic-assisted therapy has garnered significant attention for its potential to revolutionize mental health treatments. While substances like psilocybin and MDMA have been at the forefront of research, ketamine, originally known for its anesthetic properties, has emerged as a promising tool in psychotherapy. Among its various applications, ketamine’s use in couples therapy is an area that's increasingly gaining recognition.

While significant clinical studies have not yet delved into this topic with formal research, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence and promising viable connections between combining relationship therapy with treatments using ketamine, the sole legally available psychedelic medicine in the US on a federal level. Ketamine can currently be prescribed off-label by physicians when a thorough medical evaluation deems it safe. 

Ketamine sessions, when complemented with mindfulness and facilitated discussions led by licensed clinicians and MDs, have been found to be a very successful method of relationship rehabilitation. “Ketamine is often just the catalyst for helping arrive in the present moment with your partner. It’s complementary to the mindfulness work that helps couples feel more open to express themselves, " says David Gumpel, MA,, Integral Master Coach and a certified teacher of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). David is the Co-Owner and Co-Founder of Relationship Resources, a professional retreat community dedicated to working with individuals, couples and professional clinicians with integrity, love and commitment. David emphasizes that couples at their retreats often have powerful individual experiences facilitated by Ketamine which then help with creating openness and more expansive sharing with their partner after the Ketamine session. 

Recent research from Imperial College London has also shed light on the potential of psychedelic substances to enhance interpersonal relationships, including sexual satisfaction. Psychedelic substances, including psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, and others, may improve sexual function - even months after a psychedelic experience. 

According to a new study analyzed at Double Blind Magazine: “The team’s analysis found that respondents typically experienced improvement in sexual function for as long as six months after a psychedelic experience, observing upticks in reported enjoyment of sex, sexual arousal, satisfaction with sex, attraction to their partners, their own physical appearance, communication and their sense of connection.

Naturalistic use of psychedelics was associated with improvements in several facets of sexual functioning and satisfaction, including improved pleasure and communication during sex, satisfaction with one’s partner and physical appearance.

The most striking improvements were around seeing sex as “a spiritual or sacred experience,” satisfaction with one’s own appearance and one’s partner as well as the experience of pleasure itself.”

Tommaso Barba, PhD, student at the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College and lead author of the study, also adds that: "It’s important to stress our work does not focus on what happens to sexual functioning while people are on psychedelics, and we are not talking about perceived ‘sexual performance,’ but it does indicate there may be a lasting positive impact on sexual functioning after their psychedelic experience, which could potentially have impacts on psychological well-being." 

Can Psychedelics Save a Failing Relationship?

Co-Founder and fellow Owner of Relationship Resources Jayne Gumpel, LCSW, who is based in Woodstock, NY, joins David in pioneering a unique therapeutic experience by combining ketamine with mindfulness practices within a structured and supervised retreat setting in the picturesque Catskill Mountains. With over 30 years of experience and a deep commitment to facilitating healing and growth, Jayne integrates elements of mindfulness to create a supportive environment for couples.

Research and testimonials support the efficacy of ketamine-assisted therapy for depression and anxiety. Jayne and David were among the first therapists in the US to start using it as a catalyst to deepen the container of connection for couples in retreats.  In an interview for Business Insider, Jayne shares that a "relational low dose of ketamine" allows partners to distance themselves from habitual responses, fostering greater empathy and openness to difficult conversations. Through facilitated sessions and shared experiences, couples soften their defenses and reconnect with the essence of their love, paving the way for deeper understanding and compassion. Ketamine is one spoke on the wheel of healing depression and relationship malaise and great attention is paid to integration and sustainability of the insights gained during the retreat experience. In surveys conducted by Relationship Resources, a majority of couples who have participated in their Cultivating Joy Retreats are reporting a greater satisfaction in their relationship overall, including intimacy and sexuality.

One of the hallmarks of Jayne's approach is her emphasis on creating a shared vision for the future. By identifying joint values and aspirations, couples embark on a journey toward a more fulfilling and harmonious relationship. Her extensive background in psychotherapy, mindfulness practices, and psychedelic integration makes her uniquely qualified to guide couples through this transformative experience. With a deep understanding of human connection and a passion for supporting individuals on their journey toward healing, Jayne creates a safe space where couples can explore their innermost selves and cultivate resilience.

Juan-Carlos and Sophie* (one pair of Jayne’s clients who shared their story on Vice), sought refuge from a decade-long cycle of distrust and dwindling intimacy, and turned to mindfulness and ketamine-assisted therapy. Guided by their therapist Janye, they delved into their emotional wounds, uncovering past traumas and familial patterns. 

For Juan-Carlos, the ketamine experience provided profound insights into his past trauma of violent abuse by his father. Under the influence of a ketamine lozenge, he came to realize how this trauma had shaped his behavior, leading to feelings of jealousy and insecurity within his marriage. With newfound clarity, he began to understand and accept the depth of Sophie's love for him. Empathy replaced anger, and healing began. Sophie understood through her own experience that being adopted and feeling neglected by her father led to her own maladaptive patterns which provoked reactivity and relationship rupture.

Through continued therapy and integration, their marriage began flourishing with renewed intimacy and trust. 

Why Try Ketamine-Assisted Mindfulness Retreats for Couples?

Ketamine-Assisted mindfulness retreats are an innovative modality gaining recognition for their transformative effects. Through shared experiences and facilitated sessions, couples can work to soften their defenses and reconnect with the essence of their love.

In Jayne's words, "change is possible". Through compassionate guidance and expertise, couples can rewrite their narratives, foster resilience, and embark on a path toward a more connected future. “Couples who love and respect each other raise children who are more capable of loving and respecting others,” according to David.

A couple that participated in one of Relationship Resources’ recent retreats shared this testimonial: 

“Maggie and I have tried a variety of approaches to building a healthier, happier relationship over the 28+ years that we’ve been together, but we were stuck with some deep wounds we couldn’t work past.

We worked with conventional (individual and couples) counseling/therapy and it helped. However, our challenges were deep and stubborn. It wasn’t until we decided to try ketamine assisted couples work with Jayne that we were able to work through some of these deeper seated issues. The ability to share and listen with no ego allowed us to go so much deeper than we thought possible. For the time, we truly saw and accepted each other in ways we had not previously.

The retreat saved our marriage! No doubt about it! We’ve attended several additional retreats and have gained ever deepening peace and connection.

This is an amazing retreat that every couple should experience. It’s so worth the time and cost! Thank you Jayne and team!”

-Victor G and Maggie W

Learn more about Relationship Resources’ retreats here.

*pseudonyms used for privacy

Sign Up For our Newsletter

Hear about the latest retreats before they fill up, special deals and free events.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.