Sensory modulation is one tool that works well and supports initiatives to reduce seclusion and restraint use. Sensory modulation is becoming well embedded in some New Zealand mental health and addiction services and is proving to have a positive impact on service users' experiences.
Sensory modulation involves supporting and guiding people (often in a designated sensory room/area) to gain skills in self-management and changing emotional states by using sight, sounds, smells, movement and items such as weighted blankets, dogs and/or massage chairs. It enables individuals to learn self-soothing techniques and/or change their current emotional and behavioural responses to a stressful situation.
The report Sensory modulation in acute mental health wards suggests sensory modulation is a very useful, easy to learn set of skills that is well regarded by service users, and supports clinicians to use best practices.
Te Pou has supported district health boards (DHBs) to embed sensory modulation. Many DHBs now have sensory rooms and use sensory modulation effectively. This work continues to develop in inpatient units. The requirement now is to expand these skills within the crisis/home-based treatment phase. Cognitive behavioural intervention training has also been completed by many staff across New Zealand. These tools support a trauma informed approach to service delivery.