An evaluation of the use and efficacy of a sensory room within an adolescent psychiatric inpatient unit

Monique West, Glenn Melvin, Francis McNamara, Michael Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background/aim: The introduction of sensory rooms within acute psychiatric settings provides a therapeutic space that promotes emotional self-regulation and reduces distress and disruptive behaviours. The current research investigated the clinical benefit of a sensory room within an adolescent psychiatric unit. It examined whether guided sensory room use can reduce distress for adolescents and identified characteristics of sensory room users. Seclusion rates 12 months pre- and post-sensory room introduction were compared. Methods: The matched sample comprised 56 sensory room users and 56 sensory room non-users, aged 12-18 years (M = 15.35, SD = 1.35). Sensory room users were administered a pre- and post-measure of distress. Further demographic and clinical data were collected from hospital files and results analysed. Results: Adolescents' distress was reduced following sensory room use. The greatest reduction of distress was predicted by a history of aggression. Female gender was associated with sensory room use, as was the presence of an anxiety disorder. There was no significant difference in seclusion rates after introducing the sensory room. Conclusions: Sensory rooms could provide occupational therapists with a valuable tool for reducing distress for adolescents in psychiatric units, especially for those with a history of aggression. Results suggested that female adolescents or adolescents with anxiety disorders may be particularly receptive to using the sensory room. This research provides evidence that can inform occupational therapists when tailoring therapeutic treatment strategies and guide the development of prevention and management of emotional dysregulation and aggression within adolescent psychiatric settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-263
Number of pages11
JournalAustralian Occupational Therapy Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • Adolescent inpatient
  • Aggression management
  • Client-centred practice
  • Emotion regulation
  • Sensory modulation

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