The Therapist Floats
Willow Tree Counselling and its newsletter, The Listening Ear, are very excited to be hosting their first guest article, written by counsellor Susie Merz of Pyxis Counselling Services. She helpfully explores the topic of floating, particularly her experience in a Vancouver-area therapeutic flotation tank as well as its general mental health benefits. At present, I currently don’t have any experience with floating so can never offer any specific comment about the topic when it comes up in session. I thank Susie for her willingness to discuss the topic!
Every time I reach up to close the floatation tank lid behind me I think, “Why am I doing this again?” Within a couple of minutes though, I remember. Ah, yes, this is why.
It was just last year that I initially came across some information online about floating. I booked and went to my first float, signed up for a monthly membership on my way out, and haven’t looked back. My interest was personal at first, but I have found myself mentioning floating to clients because of how I have found it to be beneficial.
The process is straightforward. You enter a tank with 10 inches of water in it and close the lid so that you are in a dark, soundproof environment. The water is so saturated with Epsom salts that upon lying down you bob to the surface like a cork, with no effort required. Hence, you float. For an hour and a half.
At this point you may be thinking, “um, no thanks”, or, “what possible good could come from lying in salty water in the dark for that long”?
Here are some of my experiences with floating, and reasons that I have made it part of my self-care each month.
- Sensation: At times it feels like floating in outer space. Sounds strange, right? The water is the same temperature as your skin, so after being still for long enough, you no longer feel the water and so can imagine being anywhere. Being able to let go and float with no effort also feels amazing, and of course leads to the next point.
- Relaxation: The sense of calm that arises in the float tank stays with me for the next couple of days, both in my body and mind I become more peaceful, grounded and relaxed.
- Creativity and Problem Solving: At times I have gone into a float with the intention of coming up with an idea for some writing I am working on, or wanting to resolve a problem I am having. With no other sensory stimulation, my mind is freed up to be intensely creative, and able to see my way forward in a situation.
- Meditation: Reflection and meditation can take many forms, and the time in the float tank allows for uninterrupted focus. I have practiced a simple breathing meditation or repeated a meaningful word or phrase to myself as part of the float.
- Brain Chemistry Shift: This one is difficult to describe but feels like a brain chemistry re-boot. There is a settling down and clearing away of any anxious or stressed feelings I have come in with, and I leave with a renewed clarity in my thoughts and feelings.
- The Wise Self: This may also sound strange, but I can hear the voice of my wise and compassionate self. When the other noise and self-critical voices in my head quiet down over the length of time in a float, I can hear the part of myself that knows my true worth, and I am connected to who I really am.
- Introvert’s Heaven: As an introvert I am so easily overstimulated, by living in a busy city, by what I see in the news, by certain social situations, and so on. To be still and quiet for an extended length of time in the tank is absolutely restorative for me; I would go so far as to call it a sanctuary. (I am extremely curious about how extroverts who float find the experience.)
- Novelty: Maybe a slightly frivolous reason to try a float, but no matter how it goes, it’s a great story. “So I was in the tank thinking, ‘how long have I been in here…?’”. Trust me, people will be intrigued.
As a therapist I want to look after myself well, for my own sake and also for the sake of my clients, in order to be at my best to work with them. Because I feel the benefits in all areas of my life, floating has become an important part of my self-care.
I am already looking forward to the next time I reach up and pull the lid closed behind me.
Let me know what you think! I welcome any questions you may have, or general feedback on this article. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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