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For Better Group Therapy, Just Add Heat

How to create a "sweat therapy" sauna

Heal

Illustration Credit: Gathering of Ancestors by Cat Athena Louise

Group therapy works when group members open up, give each other feedback, and become devoted to helping one another to heal and to grow. The best way I have found to promote these conditions is to add heat, so I built a “sweat therapy” sauna as a prototype for mental health and substance abuse treatment settings. I’m not suggesting my treatment is new: sweat rituals including the Finnish sauna, American Indian sweat lodge, Russian banya, Islamic hammam, and Korean jimjilbang are among the oldest forms of group therapy, dating back thousands of years. What I’m suggesting is that the oldest is still the best.The dimensions of my “sweat therapy sauna” are 10 feet by 10 feet by 7 feet, and it can accommodate 12 people. Like a common sauna, it was built with conventional wood-framed construction with insulation between vertical studs. The interior is lined with cedar walls and benches. The seating is circular and the stove sits in the center to promote group cohesion. It is windowless to promote intimacy and introspection, and it has a stereo system to make use of the therapeutic benefits of music. Ever …

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