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Flotation therapy helps veteran with PTSD

Posted at 5:29 PM, Jul 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-31 16:50:51-04

The contraption is known by a variety of names: sensory-deprivation tanks, isolation tanks, flotation tanks. They're chambers full of a mixture of water and 800 pounds of epsom salt, designed to make a person feel weightless. Professional athletes are known to use them, but here in Tucson, some veterans are using them to help cope with PTSD.

Bruce Siegal is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Hawaii between 2003 and 2013. He was skeptical about flotation therapy when he first heard about it. But now, he floats for an hour every week at Cloud Nine Flotation.

The owner, Kalyn Wolf, sees a variety of clients of all ages and backgrounds, many are veterans. Once a person walks through her doors, she wants them to feel a peaceful and soothing energy.

"Relaxation starts from the moment you walk in," she said.

Wolf explained people will stay in the tank for either 60 or 90 minutes. At first, there's some calming music, but after a few minutes, the music fades out and the lights fade to black. 

"What this does is it allows the person to get away from all of that outside stimulus so that they can experience nothingness," Wolf said. "It's in the nothingness where people find their healing."

Siegal struggles with some PTSD, and now swears by this therapy.

"There's a lot of behavioral, thought, and emotion problems that go with that and you have to break that cycle," he said. "This is one of the ways you can do that. It's to improve my quality of life."

Each person has their own, unique goals when it comes to the time they spend inside the tank. Some simply relax, others try and connect with their environments, and some, like Siegal, focus on finding the solution to a certain problem.

"It helps you escape into your own solutions," he said.

Solutions for small, little nuisances, to solutions for large, daily, sometimes mental struggles that can have a serious effect on one's life. 

"I have a lot of things in my past that I struggle with on a regular basis," Siegal said. "For me, personally, to know that I am still a good individual, a good person, which I know I am -- and people tell me I'm strong and that I can get through anything, I want to show myself I can. So this is a way for me to go back to me, to believe what other people say."

He usually floats for 60 minutes, but soon will up the time to 90 minutes, so he can make the most of his time in there. But still, after his 60 on Sunday --

"I feel very relaxed, I feel better," he said. "I'm at a loss for words sometimes."

His advice for skeptics out there: don't knock it until you try it, and you may have to try it a few times to really have a great experience. And when it comes to helping other veterans, he hopes more will give it a go, because he thinks it can really make a difference in their lives.