Finding Relief in a Float Tank

Posted on August 27, 2016

Addiction, trauma, and stress; a painful cycle that can be difficult to break. We find methods to cope but what about methods to heal. Can the float tank be used as an interrupter, a means to break this cycle? Research and personal accounts indicate that floating can change the dynamics of addiction. Floating can provide a space for our traumas to heal. It can dissolve stress and mental chatter. The holistic shift that a float session provides revitalizes our spirits and eases our pains.

The clinical research paper, The use of restricted environmental stimulation therapy in treating addictive behaviors, suggests how isolation flotation can be used to treat addictions:

The characteristics of the REST (Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy) experience that make it effective in treating addictions are discussed as follows [1]:

  1. the induction of a general relaxation response

  2. substance misusers find serenity and relief by nonchemical means

  3. internal refocusing to concentrate on personal problems

  4. disruption of habits through removal of trigger cues and response possibilities

  5. increased feelings of control over addictive behaviors

  6. enhanced learning processes

    Using the float tank for addiction and trauma

    Floating to address addiction and trauma.

In the Book of Floating [2], Michael Hutchison, shares multiple personal stories of how floating changed lives. There are those who have quit smoking and those that have lost weight by changing their dietary habits. Michael Hutchison shares the experience of a professional photographer who quit his cocaine habit and the musician who changed his dependency on alcohol.

There are also those who have healed their traumas. It had been two years since Chris was raped. The event left her feeling depressed, anxious, and closed off to intimacy. Chris found healing by exploring floating. Michael Hutchison writes, “She discovered that she could return to the attack in her mind as she floated, visualizing the scene again and again, replaying it until it seemed to lose its power.” The self-nurturing and supportive environment of the float tank allowed her to revisit and reprogram her memory and her response to the trauma.  “It was like a ghost,” she said, “always there, ready to come out and spook me at any time. But now, since I’ve replayed and revisualized the scene, it’s like I’ve seen through the ghost, and it can’t haunt me anymore.”  The release of the trauma reduced her dependency on marijuana and fundamentally changed her life.

While the exact mechanisms of healing are not fully understood, it is clear that the positive shifts in mood, reductions in the experience of pain, the decomposition of stress, and the deep introspection in the salt waters facilitates healing from trauma and the abatement of addictions. The reduction in stress and pain provides the strength to change our lives, our habits, and our minds.

Getting back on track with insights received from the float tank

Getting back on track with insights received during floating.

“Scientists cite such effects of meditation as reduction in anxiety, blood pressure, and muscular tension, and changes in brain wave activity, as possible causes of the reduction in these harmful habits. Since we have already seen that the effects of floating on these functions are the same as those of meditation, though more immediate, intense, and much longer-lasting, I think it’s safe to assume that floating also possesses the anti-addiction effect of meditation—possibly to an even greater degree.”

-Michael Hutchison The Book of Floating


[1] Borrie, Roderick A. “International Journal of the Addictions.” The Use of Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy in Treating Addictive Behaviors: : Vol 25, No Sup7. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2016.

[2] Hutchison, Michael. The Book of Floating: Exploring the Private Sea. Nevada City, CA: Gateway and Tapes, 2003. Print.


About the Author

isolate-picJoshua Weaver is a flotationist at Isolate float center in Boulder, CO. Over the past three years, he has spent several hundred hours in the float tank. He is the founder of Tankism, a site dedicated to exploring the applications of isolation flotation. He has spent extensive time studying John C. Lilly, exploring consciousness, practicing yoga, meditating, biohacking, and most importantly floating.