Establishing sensory-based approaches in mental health inpatient care: a multidisciplinary approach

Australas Psychiatry. 2012 Feb;20(1):35-9. doi: 10.1177/1039856211430146. Epub 2012 Jan 5.


Objective: To reflect upon the implementation of sensory-based approaches within the environment of a psychiatric inpatient unit.

Method: A literature review on sensory modulation within psychiatric inpatient care, including seclusion and restraint reduction initiatives, was conducted. A variety of sensory-based principles were planned, developed and implemented over a 3-year period. Preliminary data regarding sensory room use and acute arousal ratings within the high-dependency area were analysed.

Results: Preliminary sensory room data showed a significant reduction in patient distress levels, as per consumer and clinician ratings, and that the majority of sensory room sessions were conducted by nursing staff. A significant reduction was also found for acute arousal ratings, pre to post, for the HDU engagement program. Several issues were uncovered throughout implementation of the sensory-based strategies.

Conclusions: Findings indicate the importance of cultural change, compared with simply an environmental change, giving all staff and consumers the confidence to utilise a variety of sensory-based methods during times of need. Further Australian research is required to explore the positive contribution sensory modulation can potentially make across the spectrum of psychiatric settings.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / psychology*
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration
  • Patient Isolation / methods
  • Patient Isolation / psychology*
  • Program Development / methods
  • Restraint, Physical / methods
  • Restraint, Physical / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*