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

4 October, 2017

Theresa Novak, Justin Scanlan, Damien McCaul, Nathan MacDonald, Timothy Clarke (2012) The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists


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.

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.

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.

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.