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Sensory interventions calm consumers

26 October 2022

In the busy and often chaotic setting of the Adult Acute Psychiatric Unit, consumers are finding comfort through a unique sensory intervention approach to their treatment.
The multidisciplinary team at the High Dependency Unit (HDU) have been applying a ‘sensory lens’ to their work.
This understanding informs treatment plans and uses sensory interventions that support a consumers’ wellbeing.
Occupational Therapist, Luke Roberts explained that humans were multisensory beings who relied on their sensory modalities to help them understand the world.
“Think of going for a nice coffee- you probably have your favourite coffee shop, know the view from where you like to sit, go with certain people, enjoy a certain type of coffee, smell the coffee and hear the chatter of the people around you,” he said. 
“When we get this right, our nervous system feels more relaxed, and we can cope with more of the stress the world throws at us.
“We are more tolerant as we are living life on our terms, feeling confident and safe… we exhibit our sensory preferences in what we choose to do, we make active choices.”
Luke said when consumers were admitted to an acute mental health setting, they often felt distressed, angry, and out of their comfort zone, leading their brains to fire off primitive but adaptive physiological responses, such a aggression. 
“Having an understanding of the foundations of sensory modulation as an intervention allows staff to de-escalate situations efficiently by offering the right intervention at the right time to the right person,” he said. 
"It can allow us to build a connection quickly and assists us to make consumers feel safe and welcome.” 
As part of their sensory approach to consumer care, the HDU team constructed a sensory wall that displayed their current knowledge of the nervous system and its response to threatening situations alongside possible sensory interventions. 
The wall also featured a river of wellbeing- a metaphor for how patients move through the HDU and a reminder to staff that they are essential in making the patient journey as comfortable as possible at each stage.
“The more important resource we have available in the HDU is the staff,” Luke said.
"We work as a team to get people safely down the river from the narrow dangerous sections (early in the admission) to the wider calmer sections.” 
Doctor Manaan Kar Ray, Divisional Director Adult Mental Health PAH, said he was blown away by the sensory board and believed it was an excellent, innovative example of how staff were reducing patient distress and enhancing staff safety at the same time. 
“The detailed person-centred understanding of each person through a sensory lens was amazing to read and I want to thank all the HDU staff  for embracing something new,” Dr Kar Ray said.

Last updated 27 October 2022
Last reviewed 26 October 2022

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