Supporting consumer self-management through staff education

Supporting consumer self-management through staff education: The sensory approaches e-Learning project

Written by: Dr Pamela Meredith

The use of sensory approaches in mental health contexts has increasingly been recognised for its potential to support people with a mental illness to develop self-regulatory strategies. These approaches are compatible with the person-centred, trauma-informed, recovery approaches preferred in mental health, and have been shown to support decreased use of seclusion and restraint in mental health units. One of the main challenges to the use of sensory approaches in these settings is staff awareness and acceptance, with the need for staff training and support emphasised in numerous publications. One obstacle to this training, however, has been the need to take clinical staff offline.

To support the provision of a more flexible training option for the many professionals employed in mental health settings in Queensland, the Sensory Awareness e-Learning Package was developed and evaluated in collaboration between Queensland Health, the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Learning (Learning Centre), and The University of Queensland. The e-Learning resource has been freely available to all Queensland Health staff via the Learning Centre website, since April, 2014.

Melissa Hill and Ralph Marszalek, QCMHL.

Data was gathered at three time points: pre-, post-, and three months post-completion of training.  At each time point, participants self-assessed their knowledge, confidence and attitudes using a 19-item seven-point Likert scale, and completed a 14-item multiple-choice questionnaire. Additionally, participants evaluated the package at both post-training data points, and reported on their application of sensory approaches at three months follow-up.

Findings pertaining to the pre-post-training phase have been published in the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing (Meredith et al., 2017), with significant positive change in participants’ knowledge, skills, and confidence, and high satisfaction with the package, revealed. A second paper regarding findings at follow-up time point is in progress, with preliminary results suggesting a slight decrease in these gains, and identifying a number of additional challenges to the implementation of sensory approaches in practice. Overall, completion of the e-Learning package supported staff understanding and application of sensory approaches, with gains retained over time. This Project demonstrates the value to Hospital and Health Service activities through collaboration between University, Health education providers, and specialist clinicians.


Meredith, P., Yeates, H., Greaves, A., Taylor, M., Slattery, M.,  Charters, M., & Hill, M. (2017). Preparing mental health professionals for new directions in mental health practice: Evaluating the sensory approaches e-learning training package. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing. doi: 10.1111/inm.12299.

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