Snoezelen, you never stop learning (column Aug) (English)

Written by Ilse Achterberg
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Snoezelen; You never stop learning!

When I started

At the time I started with Snoezelen for demented elderly in Bernardus, I had heard it was only used in the care of mentally retarded people. There, Snoezelen was primarily used for relaxation. After I created our first Snoezelenroom (cost only €500) and started to bring in clients with dementia I saw many positive and amazing reactions from them.

Every time I was so enthusiastic that I never could wait to tell my colleagues about it. Often they responded with some unbelief about the results and effects on our clients.

Snoezelen developed very fast

Because the effect of Snoezelen went beyond incidents and became structural Snoezelen was developed further and further. It was integrated into daily care and it eventually became a complete new method in healthcare.

At that time it was already my goal to inform and teach others about the method of Snoezelen. After Snoezelen conquered Holland, soon other countries also became interested in Snoezelen. From that moment Snoezelen really conquered the world.

At the same time in Holland it was clear that the general care of people with handicaps received more and more attention.

I learned a lot about myself

Thanks to Snoezelen I received a lot and learned a lot. Especially about myself as a human and as a caregiver. The two most important skills I learned are:

  1. be able to truly listen to clients
  2. be able to observe feelings and emotions of residents.

During this learning process I also had to face my own shortcomings. Even today I sometimes have to ask myself the question why certain behaviour irritates me and makes me frustrated from time to time. And every time the answer is to be found in my own perception and behaviour and not in that of the resident. They can't help it. It is my job and obligation as a caregiver to coop with this. And in this process of reflection and looking in the mirror you discover the true story about yourself.

There is more talking instead of listening

Back to Snoezelen. For years now I visit conferences all over the world. And every time I meet the same people who have stories to tell about Snoezelen. Everyone works with different clientgroups. Based on the philosophy of Snoezelen we recognize each other time after time. Often there appear beautiful conversations and experiences are shared.

But, each clientgroup demands a different approach and a different usage of materials. And here misunderstandings are born. Everybody is doing their utmost to convince others about their way of Snoezelen. Everybody thinks they invented or created the best possible way of Snoezelen. Something like; "There is no one like me!"

In my point of view this is a complete waste of energy and time, because there is still so much to learn.

That is the reason for making the first separation in Snoezelen methods on my website. Based on its purpose we created 4 levels of Snoezelen:

  1. Snoezelen: relaxation
  2. Snoezelen: methodical sensory stimulation
  3. Snoezelen: a behaviour therapy
  4. Snoezelen: a medical therapy

Your purpose or goal determines your way of Snoezelen

By recognizing these different levels of Snoezelen I think and hope we all are able to develop Snoezelen even further. It will be more easy to learn from each other when you share the same purpose or goal. From my experience I have learned that it is impossible to compare all 4 levels of Snoezelen with eachother. Talking from an equal goal it will be more easy to understand and help others in Snoezelen practise. This is important because during the last few years Snoezelen became a very a diffuse word.

I still learn every day

In may of this year I met for example Linda Messbauer from New York. From her I learned that the use of light effects and projection offers much more possibilities then I thought and used sofar. In short; to answer restless behaviour with an equal restless light effect in the Snoezelenroom which is reduced than slowly creates amazing results. Sofar it was my common thought to answer restless behaviour with contra soft and smooth light effects. Perhaps this explanation is some what short but this approach was complete new for me.

So, I also learn every day and that is why I think it is important we all do the same thing by sharing our thoughts and experiences with Snoezelen.


Keep learning, keep Snoezelen and keep learning from and during your Snoezelen practise.

Talk to you next time!




aaIlse Achterberg

aaFounder or

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