Sensory strategies in adult mental health: A qualitative exploration of staff perspectives following the introduction of a sensory room on a male adult acute ward

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Abstract

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the use of sensory techniques to help with emotional regulation in adult mental health populations. This is against a backdrop of international policies aimed at reducing restrictive interventions and improving the effectiveness of de-escalation techniques. A sensory room was designed and implemented on a male adult acute psychiatric ward. Staff perspectives were sought to evaluate the effectiveness of the room in managing emotional distress by exploring staff awareness of a broader range of de-escalation strategies and by exploring what effect the room had on staff behaviours with respect to sensory interventions. A series of semi-structured interviews were carried out, analysed, and grouped into themes. Three themes emerged as follows: enhancing de-escalation, sensory interventions, and impact on staff. Findings showed that increased awareness of sensory processing and use of sensory strategies such as the sensory room were perceived by staff to have a positive impact on reducing distress with male service users. Staff use of the room was also discovered to have benefits that included staff attending to their own emotional needs and the use of the room supporting reflective learning during critical incident debriefing.

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