You’ve Built an MSTE...Now What?
As anyone who’s ever owned a sophisticated piece of gadgetry knows, it doesn’t matter how many functions your SMART TV or your new-generation washing machine has, if you don’t know how to operate the functions properly, you may as well have the basic model. The exact same principle holds true when it comes to the Multisensory Therapeutic Environment (MSTE). Assembling the equipment that makes up your MSTE is only the first step; learning how to use all those components in the therapeutic context is the next. We believe that professional training is the best way to maximise the potential of your MSTE, as we explain here.
Everything we do at Beit Issie Shapiro is guided by our overriding faith in the extraordinary abilities of people with disabilities. Our MSTE Methodology, Issie Senses, was conceived of this desire to draw out the highest potential of each client and it is this relentless drive to seek more for our clients that we impart to every therapist we train. In each therapy session, the calming environment of Issie Senses is the backdrop, but it is the skill and drive of the therapist that enables each client to achieve the maximum possible behavioral and physiological improvement. Thus, evaluating an MSTE by the equipment it does, or does not, contain is to miss its true nature. MSTEs around the world may share similar features – they may all feature a bubble column, an interactive floor, and some kind of sound system – but it will always be the knowledge, skill, experience, and personality of the administering therapist that determines the therapeutic journey.
Fundamental to our approach at Beit Issie Shapiro is that an “enabling therapist” (who should be a graduate of a certified training course such as the one offered by Beit Issie Shapiro) should either be present or should be consulted at the planning stage. Through rigorous training, our therapists learn how to create the nurturing and accepting environment that will help them draw out the maximum from their clients. Of critical importance is that the enabling therapist plays the role of “facilitator” rather than out-and-out “leader’. A skilled enabling therapist allows the client to initiate and then follows his/her lead. This leads to a greater experience of success for the client and boosts the learning potential of each session.
For the MSTE to be effective, it must offer a safe haven where the therapeutic client can be completely at ease. Once the client’s guard is let down and they feel safe, they relax into a mode of receptivity which allows the therapeutic process to proceed in ways rarely achievable outside the room. Trained therapists working in Issie Senses know how to create the right environment. They are also able to tune into the unique needs of each individual client, no matter what age or level of difficulty, and use the supporting environment of the MSTE to draw out the full potential of the client. In one session, the therapist may intuit that what a client needs that day is just to sit on the floor and play using no equipment at all. In another session with the same client, they may decide to deploy a whole arsenal of equipment and stimuli. It is a fine balance.
Issie Senses is an amazing tool that has achieved wonders with clients of varying difficulties, but to unleash the maximum potential from your MSTE, you need to know when, where and how to use it. Not every client is a candidate for the MSTE and even if they are, it will not work all the time. Here is a guide to some of the considerations a trained therapist would weigh up when deciding whether to run a session in an MSTE or not:
You need to be clear on the purpose of the particular session that you are planning, such as:
- Diagnostic – Is it to explore a client’s capabilities with a view to making or confirming a diagnosis?
- A fresh start – Has the therapist recognized a need for a fresh environment in which to work with a particular child?
- Teaching adaptation – The possibility of manipulating the environment down to minutiae and isolating each faculty makes the MSTE an ideal place to teach a child how to adapt to certain environments.
- Calming the emotions – Some clients need to be in a calm space before you can get through to them. The possibilities of eliminating unpleasant stimuli are endless in the environment of the MSTE – you can achieve complete darkness, silence, dim lighting, soft music – whatever puts your client at ease. Some clients enjoy the experience of being in the MSTE which can put them in the right frame of mind for other interventions to succeed. Other clients have never experienced success of any kind and only in the highly regulated environment of the MSTE can they feel true mastery over the environment and a sense of achievement. The experienced therapist can make a decision about the suitability of the MSTE for each client individually and this may also vary from day to day.
- Relationship building – The MSTE can be a calm and rewarding space in which to work on interpersonal skills. The enjoyment factor some clients experience in the MSTE will make this an ideal location for building a more meaningful relationship between therapist and client.
- Functions to test – Whether you want to assess or work on motor, sensory, cognitive, emotions, communication or social skills – each of the faculties can be isolated, tested and worked on in a vacuum, something which is rarely available outside the MSTE.
It is important to consider personal preference. How does the client react when entering the MSTE? Does he/she seem to enjoy being there? Does he/she relax, cooperate better, feel safer,or happier? Especially for a non-verbal client, reading his/her reactions is a critical part of ensuring that the room is set up correctly.
Plan for success
Unlike more rigid therapeutic tools, the MSTE is endlessly versatile and flexible and can be readily molded to the needs of the different clients. In fact, there are no limits but those of the therapist’s imagination. This versatility can lead a less experienced therapist to believe that one can just enter the environment and “go with the flow.” This is a misconception. Yes, as the therapist, you can do anything you want in th3 room but to maximize its potential and the impact on the client, you need a plan and preferably the advice of an experienced practitioner who really knows his/her “instrument” to bring out the best from the tool. To get the maximum benefit, each session should be structured around an overriding aim and have a clearly-defined purpose.
About Beit Issie Shapiro’s Issie Senses Consulting Service
Some of the choices that govern the suitability of a client for MSTE therapy, the purpose of the session and the skills to test / diagnose will be felt almost intuitively by an experienced therapist. Acquiring the amount of practice needed to master the MSTE takes time – more time than most practitioners have in the day. That’s why we set up Beit Issie Shapiro’s Consulting services. Beit Issie Shapiro has been a world leader in the use of the multi-sensory room for therapy purposes for years. Collectively, the therapists at Beit Issie Shapiro have amassed over 82,000 hours working therapeutically in the environment and developing the unique Issie Senses Methodology. Over 3000 professionals have been trained, both in Israel and internationally, and under the guidance of our expert therapists, more than 400 MSTEs have been established across the globe.
Having achieved the level of mastery needed, and amassed hours of hand-on experience in Issie Senses, our therapists gladly share their experience and knowledge to help other practitioners from far-flung corners of the world achieve similar results.
We would love to help you get the most out of your MSTE. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. And continue reading this series to learn more about the magic of the MSTE!