Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

Clarity Child Guidance Center

Name of Innovative Program: 
Implementation of Multi-Sensory Tools/Equipment in a Children's Psychiatric Hospital
Sponsoring Organization
Clarity Child Guidance Center
Name of Innovative Program Lead: 
Rebecca Helterbrand
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
Project Description: 
Clarity Child Guidance Center is the only non-profit resource in South Texas providing treatment to children ages 3-17 suffering from mental illness.  A continuum of services is available, including a 52-bed psychiatric hospital. Our campus is designed to be a part of the therapeutic alliance which features a basketball court, swimming pool, and a ropes course. However, one element within our hospital that seemed out of place with our approach to care was the seclusion room, which are standard at psychiatric hospitals.Our Clinical and Nursing teams researched alternatives.  They discovered that multi-sensory equipment had been successfully implemented with Alzheimer patients and Autistic children. This would be a relatively radical change for the hospital - to take a seclusion room and convert it into a completely different type of therapeutic approach. After more research and investigation, two seclusion rooms were converted successfully.
Creativity and Innovation: 
In benchmarking surrounding psychiatric hospitals, all had maintained the standard seclusion room.  Regionally, the only multi-sensory equipment available had been implemented at a public school, not a psychiatric hospital setting.  The goal would be to reduce the number of seclusions by providing preventive, proactive tools to enable the child to self-soothe.A comfort room is a designated space that is designed in a way that is calming to the senses and where the child can experience visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile stimulation.  A comfort room is furnished with items that are physically comfortable and pleasing to the senses in order to provide a sanctuary form stress. The use of sensory interventions came naturally out of the Trauma Informed Care philosophy.  Sensory is a way to signal to the patient that you CARE! 
Clarity Child Guidance Center now incorporates the multi-sensory rooms into hospital tours with community leaders, donors and partners.  We are also affiliated with The University of Texas Health Science Center and are a teaching hospital for all child and adolescent psychiatrists.  The implementation of this innovation has impacted students, professors, doctors, nurses, mental health counselors, and the children receiving treatment.
Clarity Child Guidance Center trained its staff on the equipment and its usage.  Further, training has been incorporated into required annual training to ensure continuity of knowledge amongst staff.  To ensure utilization of the equipment, a policy was developed that allows for a child to visit the multi-sensory rooms up to twice a day to gain new skills and coping mechanisms.  The multi-sensory rooms are available to families and caregivers who spend time with their child/adolescent while in our care. Seclusions are monitored by our Quality Council (weekly) and Clinical Teams (monthly) to determine root causes of positive or negative variances. 
Clarity Child Guidance Center's policy may be utilized by other mental health providers and the training modules are available for sharing.  Further, our lessons learned along the way and the types of equipment we implemented are available for other providers who wish to implement this innovation.  Our commitment to performance excellence and innovation would help other centers to implement our promising practices while avoiding any lessons learned along the path.
The positive impact of having the multi-sensory experience rooms has been very much noted.  Every single nursing service staff member was trained in the use of the rooms by the vendor over four months.  Parents commented that when they used the room with their pre-adolescent children, they observed greater openness in the communication.  Therapists used the room for individual therapy with similarly positive results.  One area we expected to see improve with the use of the rooms was a reduction in the rate of the use of seclusions, since the rooms offer children a unique opportunity to improve their skills related to self-control.  The first six months data indicate some variation, both positive and negative from the previous year.  The hospital experienced a high number of acute admissions, requiring 1:1 staffing and an excessively high number of commitments, explaining some of the negative variation, although most months was positive.