SHAC debuts Mind Spa

The Student Health and Counseling Center at Portland State unveiled the Mind Spa on Nov. 3 on the third floor of the University Center Building. This new resource offers four preventative health stations, including a meditation corner, a light therapy alcove, a biofeedback training program and a massage chair.

Julie Weissbuch Allina, the health promotion director at SHAC, said the Mind Spa provides a new opportunity for students to interact with SHAC for prevention rather than treatment of health conditions.

“The idea is that it’s a proactive space where students can make healthy choices for themselves,” Weissbuch said.

Weissbuch said that she hoped students would use the space to learn new things, decrease stress levels, and create healthy habits that would promote productivity and success inside the classroom and beyond.

While the meditation corner and massage chair are familiar to most students, Weissbuch explained the biofeedback station and the light therapy alcove, which are more unique offerings of the Mind Spa.

Weissbuch said she has enjoyed using the biofeedback station, which consists of a computer that has special sensors to measure a person’s heart rate. This is integrated into various games that can track how the player’s heart rate and breathing rate match up.

“Biofeedback is a way that you can train your body to reduce your stress levels,” Weissbuch said. “It works to reduce cortisol levels, which is your stress hormone, and it does that by teaching your body to have your heartbeat and breath rate to be in coherence.

“If you can do it and do it well, you can feel your stress levels actually go down,” Weissbuch said.

Weissbuch explained that once students practice bringing their breath and heart rate into coherence, they can learn to reach the same levels without the feedback from the computer program. This could help students remain relaxed during stressful life events, such as final exams.

According to the SHAC Mind Spa website, light therapy is often used to mitigate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and sleep disturbances. Weissbuch said that the light therapy alcove at the Mind Spa has both UVA and UVB protection, lowering the risk of damage to the skin.

Dr. Marcy Hunt, the director of counseling at SHAC, was involved in the planning process for the Mind Spa from the earliest stages.

“The current Mind Spa menu options were selected because of their high utilization [and] popularity on other campuses, and because they all promote relaxation and stress reduction,” Hunt said.

“Mind spas or relaxation rooms have been growing in popularity on many college campuses for the last 5–7 years. I started a mind spa at another university before I was hired at PSU and was excited to bring the concept to the PSU campus,” Hunt said.

Angela Abel, marketing and communications coordinator for SHAC, said she hoped that the Mind Spa would be a good way for students to become more personally familiar with the other resources and services available at SHAC.

“[Students] walk right by the Dental Clinic to enter the Mind Spa, which allows them to see the dental space, receive information, and also book an appointment on the spot,” Abel said. “We can tell students about services, but seeing the space in person is one of the best communication tools.”

While the Mind Spa is already almost completely booked for the fall term, Weissbuch said that students will be able to book appointments for winter term the week before classes start.

“I think we’re a bit overwhelmed—overwhelmed in a good way—by student interest and how quickly it was booked,” Weissbuch said.

Weissbuch said SHAC is treating this first term as a pilot. They are hoping to get student feedback that will enable them to plan ways to make the benefits of the Mind Spa available to more students in future terms.