Is Snoezelen a philosophy? June 2004

Written by Ilse Achterberg
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Last week a reporter asked me:

"Snoezelen as a philosophy, that sounds like more than an activity alone. What is there so interesting, beautiful or special about Snoezelen that you call it a philosophy?"

What is that philosophy?

After I answered this question the matter was crossing my mind for days. As a matter of fact it still does. Is the Snoezelroom at itself the philosophy? Is the touchingwall, the bubbleunit, the soundfloor or the newest waterbed the philosophy?

People talk about it as a philosophy

In Holland and abroad I met so many wonderful people who, when they talk about Snoezelen, really experience and feel it as an philosophy. The passion they express is overwhelming, inspiring and contagious at the same time. On the other hand I also meet people, when they talk about their philosophy of Snoezelen, they express a total different thought and purpose.

The true Snoezelar

Despite the client groups they work with, in a conversation you recognize the true Snoezelars immediately. When they pronounce the word Snoezelen they get a twinkle in their eyes. There appears a particular smile on their faces. Words are not necessary in this case. There is no barrier of language. There is understanding.

But, what do we understand? Because, when we are in a conversation with people who are not speaking that language both sides become rather frustrated. So, how do you explain?

How do you explain Snoezelen?

To explain Snoezelen to a beginner is a hell of a job. Especially when you want to tell them the intention and the possible effects of Snoezelen.

From my point of view, this is the most difficult part about Snoezelen. For many year dozens of people try to their utmost to inform, train and coach new employees about Snoezelen. From daily practise we learned that to teach them the true message of Snoezelen is a hard thing to do.

Maybe when you have been for days into the Snoezelenroom you'll know what I mean. If, in that time you have experienced fear, sadness, happiness, aggression, restlessness, impatience and your own disabilities and handicaps you'll know where I am talking about.

Snoezelen is a work of man

In daily practise there seems to be no protocol you can take of the shelf. A standard Snoezelroom does not excists. There is also no standard procedure or treatment which garantees success. So, Snoezelen is a work of man!

{mospagebreak}Snoezelen is to dare to be yourself

Snoezelen is about to feel and to experience. To be able to feel the treasure of Snoezelen, it is necessary to be willing to share that emotion. That is already difficult for us "normal" people. So imagine what it is like for our clients.

Huge snoezelroom with fantastic designs and equipment are nice. But if there is a client sitting there with a therapist who is not understanding Snoezelen at all, it is useless after all. It only is nice.

The material is not the purpose but the tool

So, Snoezelen is not about reaching out materials. It is reaching out materials including the intention to make contact with the client.

Snoezelen is not a program. Snoezelen means that you have to open up yourself towards the other person. By doing this you give the other one the unique opportunity to give himself too.

The human factor determines the result

Snoezelen is a process from human to human. It is like friendship. True friendships only emerges when you know the other person. When you only focus on some ones behaviour and actions it is hard to create friendship. It is about the contain and not about the packaging. Compare it to a theatre. Not the author determines the quality of the play, the actors do. It is not the piano which makes the concert beautiful but the pianist.

Still no answer

Inspite of this whole story I believe I still did not succeed to give a solid answer to the question: "Is Snoezelen a philosophy?" But I am certain that the true Snoezelar understands what I am trying to say.

Snoezelen is to dare to be your self. Go with the flow!. Let it happen, Be honest and give your self. What you give you\'ll get back.

My grandmother

That reminds me of some statements my grandmother (85) made:

- to receive trust, you first have to give trust
- to receive honesty, you first have to give honesty
- to receive joy, you first have to give joy
- to receive the other one, you first have to give your self

Now I know the answer

I now know the answer on the question: "What is the philosophy of Snoezelen?"
By giving your self first, you will receive the other one next.


For every human to be able to be your self is the ultimate happiness
That is the essence of Snoezelen. By giving the other person the chance to be the one who he/she is you will provide the happiness. And that moment of happiness seem to pale all kinds of fysical and mental pains.

If that is no philosophy, I simply don't know it anymore

See you next time

Ilse Achterberg
Founder of WorldWideSnoezelen


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