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What is Flotation Therapy?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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Flotation therapy is a type of therapy in which the client floats in a tank of warm, salty water. These tanks are specifically designed for this purpose, and the experience is supposed to be quite relaxing. In some schools of alternative medicine, flotation therapy may be used as a tool to help clients achieve specific goals, and people also use flotation tanks more generally for meditation and relaxation. If you are interested in experiencing flotation therapy, you can find a flotation facility by checking with local spas or using your favorite search engine to look for “flotation therapy” and your region.

Originally, flotation tanks were designed for sensory deprivation experiments in the 1950s. Researchers believed that the brain would sink into a state of semi-consciousness if the body was suspended in warm water in a dark, soundproofed room. Early studies seemed to suggest that this was, in fact, the case. As research subjects relaxed in the flotation tanks, their brain waves changed, until they ultimately reached a state of deep relaxation which is very close to unconsciousness.

Modern flotation tanks can be built like isolation tanks, or they can be more open for clients who are claustrophobic. They are filled with warm water and Epsom salts, which make the water dense so that clients can float without effort. These tanks also have air circulation systems to keep the air in the tank fresh and pleasant to breathe.

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In a flotation therapy session, the client will be asked to strip and shower before entering the tank. Many clients like to wear swim suits for modesty. The therapist may discuss the experience with the client before he or she enters the tank, and the client is usually asked to remove all jewelry and other distractions. Ear plugs may be provided to keep water out of the client's ears and to keep sound pollution to a minimum.

Clients usually rest in the warm tank for around an hour. As they relax, they can reach a state of deep meditation, or they can focus on specific issues which they would like to deal with. The warm water can dissolve the feeling of a body boundary, encouraging the mind and body to relax deeply. Many clients meditate, focus on complex math problems, or work on self-hypnosis in a flotation tank. When the session is over, the client slowly emerges and showers again; sometimes the client may also meet with a therapist after the session to talk about his or her experiences.

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