Snoezelen [pronounced snuzelen]

is a fictional term derived from the two English expressions “to snooze” and “to doze”. It was developed in facilities for severely disabled people in the Netherlands in the Eighties. Behind Snoezelen is a multifunctional concept: In a purposely designed room (mostly a white room) the use of light and sound elements, scents and music initiate sensual sensations. These have both relaxing and activating effects on the different perception areas. The specific design directs and arranges the stimuli; it creates interest, brings back memories and guides relationships. Snoezelen induces wellbeing. In a calm atmosphere anxieties are reduced and people feel secure.

The Snoezelen room can be filled with gorgeous scents which trigger nice memories and animate clients to dream. Visual effects are created by various light sources and projectors, colour wheels, revolving mirror balls and cosy lounging and seating areas. Snoezelen is therapy and support measure suitable for all age ranges (from toddlers to elderly people).

After initial experiences in the Netherlands "Snoezelen" Great Britain and Germany started to consider the concept from the late Eighties. From the nineties it started to grow into a worldwide movement. Besides the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Canada, the USA, Australia, Korea and Japan a further 20 Nations habe adopted the concept. Germany alone has around 2000 Snoezelen rooms which meet the usual standards.

Contributions from the 15 international Snoezelen congresses of ISNA (International Snoezelen Association, established in 2002) demonstrate how Snoezelen can be used as a therapeutic medium to treat people with psychological problems (i.e. anxiety, anorexia and stress), physological problems (i.e. depression, contact anxiety) as well as attention deficit disorders (with hyperactivity), lack in concentration and motivation. Whilst the initial focus was on people with (severe) mental disabilities, nowadays the intervention is also implemented in nurseries and pre-schools, schools, leisure facilities, old people's homes and in clinics and hospices. Occasionally Snoezelen rooms can also be found in management and in swimming pools.

Non-directive Snoezelen is still the basic offer. It is thought that the room and its effect alone have a positive effect. The carer, therapist or teacher is required to act responsibly which means they need to get to know their clientele beforehand. To guarantee an effective intervention in pedagogy and therapy it is necessary to develop a concept that takes into account the needs of the target group. Developmental stage, clinical pictures, biographies and social environment as well as the current mental state of clients will impact on the planning of the Snoezelen programmes. During research in the Snoezelen room at the Humboldt-University Berlin headed by Prof. Dr. Krista Mertens from the institute of rehabilitation science relevant questionnaires and observation forms were developed and efficienca measurements were carried out (with the support of students and the institute for signal processing and pattern recognition headed by Prof. Dr. Ing. Beate Meffert). The doctoral thesis about "the effects of specific relaxation music in the Snoezelen room" by the well-known composer of relaxation music Dr. Martin Buntrock was a result of that cooperation.

The room and its settings (especially light and sound effects), choice of seating, possible use of scents and the duration of the Snoezelen session have to be adapted according the the client's needs. It can often be observed that these preliminary considerations are not taken into account. Snoezelen rooms are often overloaded with electronic equipment and too many things are switched on or used simultaneously. Currently in Germany there is also the risk of associating Snoezelen with MSE (Multi-sensory-environments). The 'environment' - the Snoezelen room - cannot be uncontrollably "multi-sensory". Here we refer to a CSE (Controlled-sensory-environment). The Snoezelen expert (carer/companion) needs to plan light effects, sounds and music, scents, positioning, duration of sessions and content based on the client's needs. That is even more vital for clients who are limited such as clients with severe mental disabilities, dementia and / or brain injuries. All three factors: Information about the client and his/her current state, the Snoezelen expert's methodical consideration and the preparation of the Snoezelen room are correlating in the so-called didactial triangle. It is evident that a Snoezelen qualification is essential not only for non-directive Snoezelen but also for a successful intervention in therapy and education. Training courses are offered by qualified staff of ISNA professional e.V.

(Mertens in Brockhaus Encyclopaedia Vol. 25, 2006,429)   Prof. (em.) Dr. Krista Mertens, Humboldt-University zu Berlin



The teaching DVD “Snoezelen – Introduction and Basics” (you can choose german or english / french language)


Content: 1. Definition - 2. Aims - 3. Rooms - 4. Promotion and therapy


Available from Prof. Dr. Mertens


Price: 14,95 Euro + postage 3,00 Euro (For now only shipping within Germany possible)

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