Tyler Baltierra talks to PEOPLE about how ketamine therapy has improved his mental health
Tyler Baltierra is getting candid about ketamine therapy on the new season of The Teen Mom: The Next Chapter.
Baltierra invites viewers to follow his journey as he undergoes the legal psychedelic treatments — paired with therapy sessions — to unlock repressed memories and help him work through childhood trauma.
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Baltierra opened up to PEOPLE about his decision to go public with his journey, and how he hopes to normalize conversations surrounding mental health.
How did you decide to get ketamine therapy?
TB: I’ve done so much normal CBT — Cognitive Behavioral Therapy — and it worked really well for me for many years. But I felt like I wanted to do something a little bit deeper, something a little more intense. Once I heard about ketamine and its benefits and the studies about how it's really helping a lot of people with PTSD and anxiety and depression, I wanted to do more research about it.
Once I did the research, I was kinda hooked! I wanted to do it because there are certain things that happen to you that are traumatic and you talk about it so much that you almost get used to explaining your trauma and explaining why you feel from it. For me, I did so much talking that I didn’t get to actually dive deep into it with my normal talk therapy. I kinda skimmed by it. That’s the main reason why I really want to take this opportunity to do something a little different.
Is ketamine therapy what you thought it would be like?
TB: It definitely was not how I thought it would be because I’ve used different psychedelics recreationally. It was a lot more sedative for me and it also brought up a lot of stuff I just didn’t think it would. It wasn’t what I expected — it was way more intense. It was definitely a crazy, wild experience. When you go through trauma, your brain goes through a lot of automatic repair and sometimes it does it too well so I was like alright, this really unlocked all of that for me. It helped me get down to the core of my trauma and better understand how it affected me as an adult.
Can you walk me through a typical session?
TB: It all depends on where you go which is why before you just dive into this, you need to do research about the facility and the doctors who will monitor you while you are doing it. You should meet with several, do a quick little intro and find out how the process works, because every therapist does it in a different way. For me, I really wanted something that was very spiritually-driven, so I wanted to go somewhere that really embodied this. We meditate, we center ourselves, we listen to calm music.
For me, it’s all about the environment. I found this place in California I really liked. When you first go in there, you’re like this feels a little weird. There are two different ways you can do it. You can do it through IV or an injection. I did the injection. It starts out really kinda light but it gets heavy very fast. You are blindfolded and they put this weighted blanket on you. You feel really not connected to your body if that makes sense, so you kinda don’t have your other senses working, you’re just literally in your own head. It’s pretty intense. I had music going that was calming to me, breathing is super important. It’s a ride.
What are your thoughts on the negative connotation of ketamine?
TB: My opinion is it should be used in therapeutic situations. I think there’s a lot of untapped potential in psychedelics when it comes to therapy and using it to process trauma, so if it was up to me, psychedelics would be legal. Unfortunately, when I Googled it, ketamine was the only thing that was actually legal in my state. I really believe it to be medicine.
I feel like it needs to be explored more because the effects of it are amazing. People should really do their own research but also talk to their doctor because a lot of doctors are now understanding the benefits that it has. And they will be really open and honest with you, so people should look at it a little deeper and with an open mind.
What were your reactions from your family and friends? Especially knowing it was going to be broadcasted on TV?
TB: To be honest, the first initial reaction was you’re doing horse tranquilizer?! Once I explained it to everybody, they were all like woah! I didn’t realize it could be used like that. They were all pretty shocked about it at first but they all really supported me, especially getting back from doing it and telling them how it went.
Are you open with your children about how this ketamine therapy has helped you?
TB: We haven’t talked about ketamine specifically but just the other day, Novalee asked where [my wife] Cate was and I said she was in a therapy appointment. And she was like oh ok good I’m glad she is in therapy. So our kids know about therapy. We’ve talked about how no emotion is a bad emotion, no emotion is wrong. It’s just a matter of how you process it and therapy allows you to do that. We have been very open with all of the kids, but mainly Novalee because she’s at the age of actually understanding a little bit. We tell her that we’ve used therapy in the past. We are also really big advocates of sometimes mom and dad need help too just like you need help. Just because we’re parents and grownups to you, doesn’t mean that we don't need help too sometimes. So I think it’s important to keep raising our kids with that kind of message so they don’t feel shameful about coming forward when they’re older.
Do you think ketamine treatment has been the most helpful for you?
TB: This definitely was the best thing for me. I wouldn’t have been able to do this ten years ago I don’t think, so I definitely needed the normal therapy that I had before to get me in the right mental space and an awareness level where I could actually handle what was being brought up during the ketamine sessions. My suggestion for people even thinking about it is to really spend some time with a normal therapist or a ketamine specialist who will be able to tell you if you are ready to dive deeper and go into this. A lot of times, they’ll actually have you do four weeks of work beforehand to see if you are ready for it. So, it definitely was the most enlightening and eye opening for me as far as therapy goes.
What do you hope people take away from watching you go through this experience?
TB: The reason why I decided to share my experience with MTV is because this is part of my story. I feel like it’s pretty vital to show people that there are other options out there. So for me, it was like, let’s advocate for mental health, let’s stop the stigma that something is wrong with you or you are irreparable, that you’re a psycho or crazy. The suicide rate for men is so high compared to women, that it’s a problem. I really wanted to put it out there because I need other guys out there to know that you don’t have to tough it out and just grind through it and all the other things people tell you to do. You are a human being with emotions. I just wanted to educate people that there are other options out there. The more information I could put out about it, the better.
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