Fall 2008
Snoezelen Therapy Calms and Relaxes Patients
Snoezelen Therapy Calms and Relaxes Patients

Nathaniel (Nate) Gencarelli and Tiana Brown, relatives of REACH Program staff, try out some of the new therapy room’s activities.

Parents of young children understand the calming power of Margaret Wise Brown’s soothing prose in Goodnight Moon. Paired with Clement Hurd’s illustrations, the timeless classic has lulled the fussiest child into a relaxed state.

Therapists at Bridgeport Hospital’s REACH Child Program (an outpatient psychiatric treatment service) recently unveiled a new therapy that also uses a celestial theme to help anxious or agitated patients calm down. In what is called a Snoezelen (pronounced SNOOzeh- lin) Room, children relax in a complex sensory environment furnished with soothing activities, tactile sensations, minimal lighting and peaceful music.

“Snoezelen provides patients with multisensory experiences in a safe environment,” explains Kristine Rabel, Certified Therapeutic Recreational Specialist for the REACH Child Program. “The activities help redirect and relax them so they can return to participate in the treatment groups.”

Snoezelen therapy was first used in the late 1970s in the Netherlands as a method of working with developmentally disabled children and with older adult patients with dementia. The techniques are based on the idea that symptoms such as anxiety and agitation may result from periods of sensory deprivation.

This innovative therapy further enhances the creative techniques used in the REACH Child Program. Designed for children 5 to 12 years old who are experiencing emotional or behavioral difficulties, the program is used to reduce the need for hospitalization or placement in special residential facilities by providing intensive psychiatric care in an outpatient setting.

“The REACH staff is highly trained in using special techniques to prevent children from behaving in an aggressive or disruptive manner,” says Patricia Rizzi, PsyD (Doctor of Psychology), Director of the REACH Program. “We have looked at many strategies to identify and calm children so they don’t have to be isolated from their fellow patients. Snoezelen is a method that has worked in a variety of settings where non-restrictive behavioral control is the goal.”

Patients are referred to REACH by schools, clinics, physicians, social service agencies and other healthcare providers. Parents can also make direct referrals to the program. For information, please call the REACH office at 203-384-3377.

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