Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Snoezelen® therapy can reduce cancer-related stress

blog relaxation therapy

Cancer patients are often stressed-out – physically, emotionally and socially – and being stressed out can make fighting cancer even more difficult.

Patients who can cope with their stress using, for example, relaxation and stress management techniques have lower levels of depression, less anxiety and fewer symptoms related to cancer and its treatment.

At CTCA near Phoenix mind-body therapists are helping patients relax through multi-sensory relaxation therapy developed in the Netherlands in the late 1970s. The therapists who invented it also invented its name, Snoezelen®, which is the contraction of two Dutch verbs: “snuffelen,” to seek out or explore, and “doezelen,” to relax.

Snoezelen helps reduce stress by distracting patients with pleasant sensory experiences. Snoezelen combines sights, sounds, textures, aromas and motion to stimulate a patient’s primary sensory systems. It can be used to replace medication prescribed for anxiety.

“Snoezelen is hypnotic, mesmerizing,” said Stephen White, Mind-Body Therapist at CTCA near Phoenix. “In fact, anxious patients often become so relaxed by this therapy that they fall into a very deep sleep.”

With a cart loaded with equipment, White can create a Snoezelen environment in any of the hospital’s rooms for inpatients and outpatients alike. He sets up a quiet fan that moves the air and a projector that shines slow motion patterns, such as stars, onto the ceiling of the patient’s darkened room.

White also has a giant lava lamp, a machine that creates light-colored water bubbles, a CD player and a wide variety of calming music. White offers patients smooth stones, feathers, pom-poms and fuzzy necklaces to engage their sense of touch; scented oil to stimulate their sense of smell; and sugarless hard candy to perk up the taste buds.

Most patients who try Snoezelen therapy ask for it again, White said. The calming effect of the therapy doesn’t just benefit the patients, he added. Hospital employees also feel at ease when they’re in a Snoozelen room.

Based on the experience at CTCA in Arizona, Snoezelen may be introduced at the four other CTCA hospitals in Philadelphia, Tulsa, outside Chicago and near Atlanta.