Dr. Courtney King and her family have been around the world and back in the name of integrative care and functional medicine. After an unsatisfying stint in big corporate medicine, she opened a successful Integrative & Functional Medicine practice, Golden Road Medicine, on her own in Santa Rosa, California. After four years in private practice, she took her clinic on the road via telemedicine with grand plans of studying herbal, Ayurvedic medicine and indigenous healing traditions and practices in exotic locales from Sri Lanka to the Amazon jungle to the Australian outback. However, with the onset of COVID-19, plans changed and the name of the game has been rolling with the punches. These last few years have been a whirlwind for the Dr. King and her family – there have still been far off places visited, and the knowledge of herbal medicines bestowed, just not quite the way that Dr. Courtney had originally envisioned it, but fully in line with what the Universe had in mind for her and her family. But now your favorite Integrative Care and Functional Medicine Doctor has relocated back to Fort Collins, CO and is ready to re-open the doors to her practice, Golden Road Integrative, Functional & Psychedelic Medicine. She is excited to share with her patients some brand new offerings, including psychedelic medicine retreats and at-home ketamine therapies, to help facilitate the fully integrative mind body spirit healing that Dr. Courtney King knows is possible.
We were able to sit down with Dr. Courtney at her new practice in her home in Fort Collins, CO and chatted about an array of things – functional medicine, integrative care, world travels, living in New Zealand during lockdown, psychedelic medicine, ketamine treatments, and what amazing plans she now has in store for Golden Road Medicine.
Dr. Courtney, tell us a little bit about yourself:
“I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, went to school in Providence, Rhode Island at Brown University, and lived in Boulder, Colorado during the summers. I absolutely love the mountains. I also have two young kids and a husband. We do not have a dog at this time, but I feel sure that will change after ski season! After college, I traveled around the world for 18 months. It was then, after meeting and seeing so many amazing people in so many wonderful places around the world, that I decided I wanted to be a doctor. I was originally interested in international medicine, which over time morphed into a love of integrating healings from all over the world, herbalism, Shamanism, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Ayurvedic medicine.
My background is in psychology, but I decided to do family medicine to easily incorporate integrative holistic medicine for the whole family. I attended medical school in Augusta, Georgia and came to Fort Collins, Colorado for my residency. We then lived in Santa Rosa, CA for 5 years, which is where I started my practice, Golden Road Integrative & Functional Medicine. When we moved to California, I originally worked in big corporate medicine, but it felt awful and was short lived! I was supposed to be helping establish an integrative medicine clinic within this large conglomerate medical center, but they still only gave us 20 minutes per patient. I quickly realized that you can’t hear everything you need to know about a person’s life story, diet, traumas, stressors, lifestyle, or gather any holistic overview of someone’s health in a mere 20 minutes. I also had 2000 patients on my panel at the time, which didn’t feel good either. I didn’t really know any of my patients and, to me, that defeated the whole point of wanting to be a doctor. The patient and the doctor deserve to feel a strong connection with one another, if true healing is to be attained. It was then, while on a ski vacation, in early 2017, that I emailed my boss and quit! The golden handcuffs were tough to break free from, but I paid them back all of the money and bonuses they had dangled in front of me when I signed on with them 2 years prior. I quit in time to attend the 2017 MAPS Psychedelic Science conference (I had originally requested and been denied the time off from work.) I then started Golden Road Integrative & Functional Medicine, and I’ve never looked back. Since then I’ve been helping people with gut issues, getting off medications, balancing hormones, navigating childhood vaccinations, treating thyroid issues, adrenal issues, and nervous system issues, to name a few. I love being a medical detective for people who don’t feel well, but cannot find the underlying reason. I especially love the close relationships I have now with my patients and what these relationships bring to the healing process.
Now I’m back in Fort Collins, Colorado and I am happy to be restarting Golden Road Medicine here. I couldn’t be more excited to bring psychedelic (at-home ketamine therapy, for now) medicine offerings to my practice to encompass fully integrative Mind, Body, Spirit health and wellness for the whole person. I had many patients that did everything right – they had a great gluten-free and dairy-free diet, only ate organic, meditated daily on their app, went for walks in nature – did all the right things! But they were still dealing with traumas, loneliness, spiritual disconnect, and overwhelm from this fast-paced modern society. They were stuck, and I couldn’t figure out how to offer them the spiritual and deeper mental health assistance that they needed. But now, I’m so excited and grateful to be in this truly holistic phase of medical advancement where I can incorporate psychedelic medicine healing on a deeper level. We can now bring these incredible alternatives to people to help them with their mental and spiritual health, so that in turn, they can be truly healthy, happy and whole.”
I’m just so happy to be back in the States, where psychedelic research is moving and advancing at a rapid pace, especially at a time when we need it most – to help us heal from the devastating mental health crisis caused by the pandemic. I am also ecstatic to have landed back in Colorado, just as Prop 122 has passed, giving patients access to additional psychedelic plant medicines to help heal a variety of additional mental, physical and spiritual disorders.”
What has life been like for you over the last few years?
“In 2019, we decided that it was time to leave California for a number of reasons. We had been evacuated from our home 3 years in a row due to wildfires in Sonoma county, and we had no family in the Bay Area. Regulations in California were no longer allowing me to treat some of the children in my practice the way I felt they needed to be treated, so that was the final straw. We wanted to travel around the world with the kids for one and a half years before deciding where to move back. We actually left California on Feb 14, 2020 and had our entire year and a half planned. We were headed to countries that had varied but specific forms of traditional medicines and healing modalities. We wanted to learn about different indigenous healing practices and traditions from around the world. We planned to study Maori healing in the north island of New Zealand, Aboriginal medicine in the Australian outback, Balinese healing traditions, Thai massage and healing in Thailand, Ayurvedic medicine in Sri Lanka, Yoga as medicine at an ashram in India, Tibetan Medicine in Nepal, and then to South America for the last 6 months to embed ourselves in the ancient spiritual, psychedelic and traditional medicines of the Amazon. But then COVID-19 happened…..
First, we went to Fiji and spent a beautiful 3 weeks there, and were able to learn about some of their herbal medicine traditions. It was a beautiful experience, but we knew this COVID-19 thing was coming. From there we traveled to New Zealand, and 5 days later the country closed its borders, and the lockdown began a week or so after that. What was supposed to be a 6-week stay in New Zealand turned into two almost fully free years. Things definitely went a little differently than we had planned, but better than we could have ever expected! We thanked the Universe daily for landing us in the only country that actually eradicated and kept out COVID-19 (which meant our kids were in school the entire time!) until they finally opened the borders in August 2021 and allowed the beast to come to the North Island. New Zealand had been one of my favorite countries from my world travels after college, and we were blessed beyond belief to have spent two magical years immersed in its beauty. The border was closed, so we couldn’t leave, and nobody could come visit us. Luckily, my husband got a job so we got visas and we enrolled the kids in a wonderful Waldorf school. I looked into becoming a doctor there, but you have to work as a general practitioner in a clinic for a number of years before you can work on your own, and they don’t recognize integrative medicine as a board certified speciality, as it is in America. Although I kept a small portion of my California patients while we traveled, whom I saw via telemedicine (which really became a thing while we were gone!), I missed my busy practice and I wanted to get back to working with psychedelic medicines (which, as more and more studies resulted, also blew up over the pandemic). I truly have a calling to help usher back in the psychedelic medicine renaissance. And that calling is a big part of what has brought me back home. I trained to work with ketamine assisted psychotherapy (KAP) healing before I left the states, and I am eager to incorporate the quickly approaching FDA approval of MDMA to treat PTSD. I’ve been following the MAPS research on MDMA, and studying the clinical applications of other psychedelic medicines for years, as long as I have studied any other healing modality.
Between missing our family and friends, and my ultimate desire to work with psychedelics and plant medicines with my patients, we finally decided it was time to come home, and to move back to Fort Collins after my kids got accepted into the community Waldorf school. Now, I am so excited to be re-launching my practice, and to finally be able to bring aspects of psychedelic healing to my patients. The research results for ketamine, psilocybin mushrooms, and MDMA to treat depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, overwhelm, and PTSD are unparalleled, and we are just at the beginning. These are safe and effective medications and I know they are going to help ease so many people’s suffering! I also wholeheartedly believe that psychedelic medicines can help to heal all of humanity, and thus, through an elevated global consciousness, help to heal the planet as well.
We didn’t completely miss out on amazing world travels, but we didn’t end up going to a single country that was on our original itinerary. We left New Zealand in January of 2022 and traveled to Dubai, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Portugal, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua – places with open borders, and that were easy to travel to, despite the newly emerging Omicron variant at the time. Overall, it was still a very rich experience. But now we’re back in the states and happy to have landed back in Fort Collins, Colorado. I am SO ready to revive my telemedicine practice in California, adding patients in both Colorado and Georgia, seeing in-person patients for intensives and retreats here in Colorado, and to incorporate all the aspects of true Mind-Body-Spirit healing.”
What are the principles behind Golden Road Medicine and what are your plans and goals for the future?
“Now that we’ve come back to America, I can truly incorporate spiritual and mental health into my Integrative care practice. To treat someone’s physical body, along with their mental health and their spiritual health is truly what I’m meant to do. I’m now incorporating ketamine therapy into my practice along with my tried and true functional and integrative medicine programs. I think all 3 areas of our health need to be addressed for holistic and persistent healing. Even patients coming just for ketamine therapy will have lab work done to look for underlying imbalances and we will evaluate all aspects of their health. Ketamine is helping so many people suffering from anxiety, depression, overwhelm, and those just feeling stuck or overwhelmed by our go-go-go culture. However, if someone has a major deficiency or imbalance in their physical realm, psychedelic medicines can only do so much! Treating all aspects of mind, body and spirit is paramount to long-lasting and well-balanced health.
I especially like working with ketamine with patients who are currently on antidepressants or anxiolytic medications and would like to get off of them, as it is totally safe to journey with ketamine while on these medications. As the ketamine begins to work, and the increased neuroplasticity begins to change thoughts and perceptions, we can wean down the medications. It’s helping so many people get off their SSRI medications, which are well known for having awful side effects. I especially love helping my patients to wean off of and be free from those problematic drugs. If you are interested in finding out if at-home Ketamine therapy is a good fit for you, you can take a short quiz on my website or you can schedule a free 10-minute Discovery Call to see if joining my practice or attending a retreat would be the best fit for you.
Psychedelic medicines can help people find joy in other ways, often by rewiring their neurons (via increased neuroplasticity) so that they can think a bit differently about their current situation, and to find hope. When feeling the universality, love, and oneness of the web of all living things, psychedelic medicines can also help people reaffirm or re-learn that all one really needs to heal is already inside of them. I want people to really be able to know and trust their innate inner wisdom and healing, as there is an incredible source of light and divinity within us all! We are often completely detached from the inner wisdom and healing that we’ve been given, and these medicines can help bring us home to our true selves and to the healing power that we already have within. Psychedelic medicine can help you find that inner healing that has always been there. It can also help silence the inner critic that is often getting in our way!
There are so many additional healing modalities that we can incorporate when dealing with mental health. One goal within my practice is to have more in person community-based circles and groups as well as day-long and intensive multi-day retreats. Community and a sense of belonging are truly medicine in their own right. I am working on creating a holistic mind body medicine retreat center where I can run these events. We will have organic food growing to nurture us farm to table, we will have community circles, we will have hiking trails, nature bathing, exercise, yoga, meditation and all of these wonderful things that we all need. People can come for a week or a long weekend to learn a variety of healing skills, ways of eating, and healing truths, while discovering their true medicine. Your true medicine is different from anyone else’s, and it wants to be discovered! Your true medicine may just be spending a week in nature, reconnecting with a community, or re-cultivating a meditation practice by going within for 5 days in a row. Or, of course, it could be psilocybin or ketamine. Yes, the ultimate goal for 2024 is to create a beautiful multi-faceted truly holistic healing retreat center. But until the perfect location reveals itself, having intensives and retreats at existing locations around Colorado, and getting like-minded community together to heal, is the most important goal for me.
I’ll also be starting some functional medicine groups because unfortunately functional medicine is very expensive because it is very time consuming, and it’s out of reach for a lot of people. But, it’s so important and extremely effective because of the (costly) intensive one-on-one doctor time. That’s ultimately why it’s so expensive and if your insurance isn’t great, then labs can get expensive too. But there are ways around some of that, including creating a group setting for appointments, and ordering some labs through less expensive online and at-home lab kits. I’ll be able to see patients individually for a shorter amount of time to onboard for the specific ailments, and then we will meet together weekly to go over what the labs mean, everyone’s general lab results, topics specific to each group, what natural remedies exist for each concern, and when medications may be warranted. It will also bring healing by bringing a community approach among people that are having similar concerns as we all come together to heal.
Specifically, I’ve been a seeing a number of health issues over and over again which I’ll also be creating groups for including estrogen dominance in women who are pre-menopausal. PMS, mood swings, weight gain and painful periods over time are leading to crippling anxiety, insomnia and depression over time as well as other mental health issues if not treated. This all stems from hormone imbalance, so I would like to create a specific group focusing on hormone imbalance.
I also keep seeing complications around long COVID-19. People get COVID-19 and then for long periods afterward they’re experiencing migraines, fatigue, and a number of other complications that they can’t seem to shake after having COVID-19. Others are experiencing similar concerns due to accumulation of spike proteins and a host of other issues stemming from their vaccines and booster shots. So, I’ll also be starting a group for people experiencing symptoms from long COVID-19 and/or from COVID-19 vaccines.
I’ll also continue with my 365 Mind Body Spirit Detox that I’ve been running. It is a mind-body-spirit detox and it corresponds well with everything else that I’m doing. It teaches you how to eat, how to detox your mind and your thoughts. I’m excited to bring that offering back as well. I do the detox along with the group and I love that it keeps me accountable as well!”
Tell us more about your tagline – “Heal Your Roots, Elevate Your Mind, Enjoy Your Life.” What does that mean to you?
“At Golden Road Medicine, the tagline is ‘heal your roots, elevate your mind, enjoy your life.’ It basically sums up everything we do and everything that we care about and that we should ideally get out of medicine and a patient/doctor relationship. This philosophy is at the core of everything I do, being an Integrative medicine doctor.”
Heal Your Roots
“The first aspect is ‘Heal Your Roots.’ This aspect focuses on functional medicine and root cause resolution. This involves looking for the root cause of what’s causing your dis-ease – disease, digestive issues, anxiety, depression, etc. A lot of times it’s gut health or hormone imbalance or nutrient deficiencies. Functional medicine is all about root cause resolution. We’re healing those roots and digging deeper to find out what’s actually causing the issues, which is so much more helpful than just throwing a medication at what’s ailing you and then trying to cover up this symptom or trying to make the symptom feel better. You’re never going to achieve overall health if you don’t dig down and find what’s causing these root issues. Healing your roots and tending to your roots can be likened to a tree – if the roots aren’t healthy, you’re not going to have a healthy tree. It’s exactly the same with people. This includes a lot of lab work. I dig into family history, genetics, food allergies, stool tests, hormone testing, saliva testing, and looking at your stress and adrenals. I examine everything in order to heal your roots. This is the functional medicine aspect. This is the first step, then once we know what we’re working with, we can treat and balance things as best we can. Then we bring in the mental and spiritual health aspects.”
Elevate Your Mind
“This is the mental health aspect of integrative medicine. So, we have the physical, the mental and the spiritual health that need to work together to obtain optimal health. When it comes to elevating your mind, we’re doing the things that we can to help you get that incessant mind chatter, the monkey mind, to calm down. We calm the inner critic using positive affirmations. Psychedelic medicine can also help in regard to mental health, especially when it comes to depression or anxiety. Oftentimes, there are aspects of our mental health that need to be healed before we can physically heal. If you’re depressed, it’s really hard to go exercise and it’s really hard to eat a healthy, whole, balanced diet and to not eat the food you shouldn’t eat if you want to feel better. So, we really dig into mental health and learn to elevate the mind through meditation, yoga, breathwork, etc. There are so many different aspects to this and it’s very personal to everybody. I work with people to find out what will help them specifically in the best ways. It’s a personal one-on-one decision, how we work on the mental health aspect and how we elevate your mind. I hear your story, we get into your traumas and your stresses and your family life. We dig into what is causing your emotions and stress. These conversations lend to deeper relationships with my patients that allow a trust that also invites healing. Elevating your thoughts and improving your mental health are crucial before you can be fully healthy and happy.”
Enjoy Your Life
“This represents more of the spiritual health journey and the true reason that we are here on earth. When you’re healthy, you can enjoy your life. And when you’re happy, you can enjoy your life. And when everything’s in balance, you can enjoy your life. I find that a lot of people are going through their day-to-day life and they just can’t figure out why they’re not happy and why they’re not enjoying their life. Perhaps they’re not depressed, but things just aren’t quite clicking. I often find it’s a spiritual health issue, and it is the hardest one of the three to really help people with because it’s such a personal thing. A lot of it is just being in nature or spending time with people that you love, like your community and your family. Mystical experience can also help bring about spiritual health. Elevating consciousness, experiencing love and the oneness of the universe, or admiring the joy and awe of a newborn can all usher spiritual health. Adding this spiritual factor in with balanced mental health and physical health is so important. When all three of these things are aligned, you really can be happy and enjoy your life.
But this isn’t easy for a lot of people, and spiritual health really is sometimes the hardest aspect to achieve, especially as a doctor. We’re additionally healing the physical body by tending to mental health issues, and by finding and strengthening that connection to Spirit, and that connection to something greater than yourself. Each of these aspects are crucial in the healing journey.”
“We’re healing the physical body by tending to mental health issues and finding that connection to spirit and that connection to something greater than yourself. Each of these aspects is so important and helpful in the healing journey.”
Tell us more about ketamine therapy and how you’ll be integrating it into your practice.
“Ketamine has been around for many, many years. It’s very safe. That is why it’s such a great psychedelic therapy to start with for many people. The safety profile is impeccable. And there are very few side effects.
The antidepressant benefits of ketamine were discovered by accident, while using it to put people under for surgeries. People would wake up from their surgery where ketamine had been the anesthesia, and they would feel so much better on so many different levels. Their depression would be gone and they would feel very grounded. Their anxiety levels would be lower, and they felt more resilient, despite having just had a surgery! Anesthesiologists just kept seeing this over and over again. Ketamine is a widely used anesthetic and that is still its main FDA approved use. But ketamine is getting much more use these days for its effects on depression and anxiety. One amazing thing about ketamine, and I think this is why it’s so helpful and this is why I am so excited about the research going forward, is that it increases something called BDNF, which increases neuroplasticity. It is a commonly found deficiency in Alzheimer’s Dementia. I have worked a lot in the past with Alzheimer’s patients and preventing Alzheimer’s in patients that have the predisposed genetics for it. In these cases, we’re trying to increase BDNF because it increases neuroplasticity and regrows neurons in your brain. Regrowing and forming these connections is a really important part of the therapy. It helps us to rewire our thoughts, and to create different ways of seeing things from how we previously have been. It can help us see the light in the darkness, and to see a hopeful way forward and through.
The data that continues to come out is amazing. There was a study, one of the online tech companies studying at-home oral sublingual ketamine therapy just put out a paper on over 640 patients, and 65% of the patients that are taking at-home ketamine have had their depression and anxiety scores come down 50% on multiple rating scales, after only six sessions. That’s incredible! We don’t get those kinds of results with SSRIs. Not even close. We have never proven that SSRIs work any better than placebo. The other thing about ketamine that I really like is it is safe to use with your SSRI. So if you are on an antidepressant, it is still safe to use ketamine with that antidepressant. This is not true for all other psychedelic medications. When a patient is using ketamine therapy, we can taper the SSRI and help them get off of their antidepressant medication altogether. That is true healing!
So again, it’s very safe to do at home. There are some very important things to keep in mind when it comes to all psychedelic medicine. The set and setting are paramount to a good experience. Set refers to your MINDSET going into the experience. It is recommended to take time to meditate, relax, breathe deeply, and give time to release the problems of the day before you go within. I share with my patients what I do to get in the right mindset, and they can take and use what works for them. Setting refers to the place in which you are going to have your journey. With ketamine, you typically have an eye mask and headphones on the entire time, as you will likely dissociate from your body. You want to make sure to be comfortable in a lying down position, on a bed or couch (I lie on the floor on a large furry sheepskin rug with blankets and big fluffy pillows!) While the setting may be more important for other psychedelic medications where you remain in your body and experience the setting more fully, I still like to set up the area with meaningful objects that remind you of your intention and have a calming effect. Saging the room ahead of time or diffusing essential oils can be helpful, having photos of loved ones, spiritual objects, crystals, pictures of nature, etc can help to create the ideal setting for your experience.
One thing that’s also very important is to have a trusted sitter. So, one way is to find a friend or partner who also wants to undergo ketamine treatment, and you can trade off sitting sessions for one another. The buddy system at its best! Alternatively, you can ask a friend or partner to sit with you each time while you have your at-home experiences. They just sit nearby and are right there in case any need arises. Honestly, you likely will not need anything, as the sessions are short and you should pee right before you start!. The reason you may need the extra support during ketamine journeys is because it is a dissociative medication. You leave your body, to varying degrees, so you may need a hand to get to the bathroom, or someone who can change the music if you can’t figure out how to work your phone during the experience. The dissociative element is dose dependent, and different for everyone, so may not be an issue for you, but you won’t know until you try it. It’s different from psilocybin or LSD or MDMA where you’re still really in your body, even though your mind may be in the ethers. A trusted sitter is always imperative.
Some people only need a very little amount of ketamine to feel blissed out or surrounded by love and light. It is a powerful reminder that within ourselves we can create these happy, blissful thoughts and emotions, so why not on a more regular unmedicated day to day basis? But then other people may need a higher, more psychedelic dose, to get what they need from the medicine. Everyone is different and it’s a very personal thing. It’s important to work with a physician closely to find the right dosage for you over time.
A huge part of the therapy of ketamine is that it really is a self-care modality. You’re taking two hours for yourself. You’re clearing your space, you’re getting in the right mindset before you do the medicine, and setting aside sacred time for yourself. You are setting an intention and focusing on what you need from the medicine. You are asking for help. Then, for the ketamine assisted psychotherapy part of the treatment, you speak with an integration therapist who helps you put all that you’ve seen and learned into a context where you can take this knowledge and apply it to your life going forward. This integration process is where the true magic actually happens and is arguably as important, or more important, than the medicine journey itself. They help you to contextualize and understand what you have seen, to take meaning from the experience, to make the changes going forward, and to really lock in the long term healing effects.
Ketamine can be done 1-2 times a week for up to six weeks, for the initial 6 sessions. Most people can fit one session in per week, but more is fine if you can make the space! The results are just outstanding for depression, anxiety, overwhelm, and for overall spiritual health. People are also using it simply to remind themselves of their oneness with nature and the universe, which is beautiful and powerful healing.
Amazingly, but not unexpectedly, people are also finding that after ketamine and other psychedelic therapies, certain physical health conditions can resolve as well. Being an integrative medicine doctor, I deeply understand how intertwined all of these things are. So much of our physical issues have to do with our mental health or our spiritual health. So it isn’t surprising that ketamine can be so effective for issues such as chronic pain.
Ketamine really is a very safe and very effective therapy and I’m excited to bring it into my practice so that I can offer a more holistic approach, helping to heal the mind, body and spirit of all of my patients.”
If you are curious about whether at-home ketamine therapy would be right for you, take my short quiz now! If you would like to take your health into your own hands and truly heal your body, mind, and spirit, book a ten minute consultation and let’s get you on your Golden Road to unlimited health.