Sensory Modulation in Acute Mental Health Wards: A Qualitative Study of Staff and Service User Perspectives


The following report outlines the qualitative findings from a pilot study exploring the use of sensory modulation in New Zealand acute mental health services. The study is part of a larger initiative to reduce the use of seclusion and restraint in mental health services nationwide (Ministry of Health, 2010). The research involved collaboration between Te Pou, the Occupational Science and Therapy Department at Auckland University of Technology and the mental health inpatient units of four district health boards (DHBs). The purpose of the research outlined in this report was to explore the feasibility of using sensory modulation techniques and tools in acute psychiatric services with the specific aims of:

  • Understanding service users’ experience of using sensory modulation as a tool for the de-escalation of distress.
  • Exploring staff member perspectives of using sensory modulation as an intervention for the de-escalation of distress.
  • To identify specific facilitators and barriers to implementing sensory modulation in acute mental health wards. 


  • Acknowledgements 
  • Executive Summary 
  • List Of Tables 
  • 1.0 Introduction 
  • 2.0 Background 
  • 3.0 Methods
  • 4.0 Findings
  • 5.0 Discussion
  • 6.0 Recommendations
  • References
  • Appendix A
Contact Person/Organization: 

Te Pou o Te Whakaaro Nui, The National Centre of Mental Health Research, Information and Workforce Development (Te Pou) 

Type of Tool:

Publication Date: 

Sensory Modulation

Lesley Collier talks about the sensory room approach to mental health