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Mai Shimada, making ketamine-assisted psychotherapy more accessible

Mai Shimada and Soh Shimada, "isha Health" co-founder (San Francisco, USA).
Mai Shimada and Soh Shimada, "isha Health" co-founder (San Francisco, USA).

Mai is native to Japan and lives in San Francisco where she has worked as an emergency physician. She started Isha Health in 2021. This company offers ketamine-assisted psychotherapy online to treat depression, anxiety and PTSD with licensed clinicians to make this effective treatment more accessible to more people safely. I met her and Soh, her co-founder today to share a coffee in San Francisco.

What is the moment you realized you had mental health ?

The first time I realized that I needed to address my mental health was when I was still working as a resident physician in New York. I worked a lot, in a very intense environment, I was still young, came from a very different culture, and it was really hard for me emotionally. At that time, I created a wall between my surroundings and myself so that I can push myself through the intense training and work. This made me do well during the training, and I was able to become a board certified emergency medicine physician at the age younger than many. At the same time, I felt isolated in my private life. When I realized what was happening, I knew I needed to work on my mental health.

What do you want to improve in terms of the population's mental health ?

I find it hard to think or talk about mental health, especially for people of color like me. The US is a big country, and there are a lot of different cultures here, and not all of them are equal in terms of mental health. I grew up in Japan, it's still different there, mental health is something we cannot talk about very openly, at the risk of sounding "crazy". We have to reduce the stigma around this topic, be able to talk about mental health, talk about psychotherapies, etc. especially for people who are from the diverse cultural backgrounds.

Today, there are a huge number of online mental health solution providers. They can help people access care without spending a lot of money and feeling stigmatized. When I learned about ketamine assisted psychotherapy, the access to the treatment was still a big issue. So I worked with experienced doctors and therapists to create a clinic to deliver this treatment safely and effectively online.

What is your proposed solution to solve this problem ?

I had a family member who had a great result with ketamine assisted psychotherapy and I also read a lot of studies on the mental health benefits of ketamine. After being convinced that it could be beneficial to myself, I gave it a try. It was a very transformative experience. This experience led me to create Isha Health. This is remote psychotherapeutic treatment (for example CBT, but this will depend on the reason for which the patient is consulting), assisted by Ketamine. We wanted a solution accessible to as many people as possible, and without costing a lot of money and stigma, which is why we preferred the remote format. In person ketamine infusion for example costs $600 - $1,000 per infusion for example. During the initial intake, we evaluate your current problems, needs, and any health concerns. When we think you are a good fit for our ketamine assisted psychotherapy, we ship you all the necessary medications and equipment, and you go through ketamine assisted psychotherapy with our psychotherapist online.

Isha Health, Online Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy.
Isha Health, Online Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy.

What are your plans for the future ?

Our plan is to reduce mental health suffering from the world with psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. We are starting with helping patients with depression with ketamine assisted psychotherapy !

Is there an artistic work, or someone inspiring that had a positive impact on your mental health ?

I hadn't directly made the connection with my mental health and artwork, and it just came to my mind that there is a very famous Japanese painter named Higashiyama Kaii, who works with such a beautiful, very particular blue. When I lived in Japan I used to go to the museum, I could spend hours sitting in front of his paintings. Whatever challenges I was dealing with, its beauty always brought me tranquility.

Higashiyama Kaii, "End of the year", 1968.
Higashiyama Kaii, "End of the year", 1968.

What is the best way to contact you ?

Check out and if you are interested in working with us to make psychedelic assisted therapy accessible, email me at 🙂

Interviewed by Thomas Cantaloup, on September 23, 2022

Photo credits : Thomas Cantaloup


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