Pilot study of a sensory room in an acute inpatient psychiatric unit

Australas Psychiatry. 2012 Oct;20(5):401-6. doi: 10.1177/1039856212459585. Epub 2012 Sep 26.


Objective: The use of sensory rooms (also known as comfort rooms) to reduce seclusion rates has generated a great deal of interest. This study examined the outcomes associated with the introduction of a sensory room in an acute inpatient psychiatric unit.

Method: Consumers rated distress and staff rated a variety of disturbed behaviours before and after each use of the room. Items used during each episode were recorded.

Results: Use of the room was associated with significant reductions in distress and improvements in a range of disturbed behaviours. Those individuals who used the weighted blanket reported significantly greater reductions in distress and clinician-rated anxiety than those who did not. No changes were noted in rates of seclusion or aggression.

Conclusions: The sensory room was an effective intervention to ameliorate distress and disturbed behaviour, although this did not translate into reductions in overall rates of seclusion or aggression. Weighted blankets appear to be particularly useful.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder / rehabilitation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / psychology
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Therapy / methods*
  • Patient Isolation / psychology
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychiatric Department, Hospital
  • Relaxation Therapy / methods*
  • Restraint, Physical / psychology
  • Schizophrenia / rehabilitation
  • Treatment Outcome