Aromatherapy Talking Mat

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Many thanks to Cheryl Strutt for this lovely blog about how she developed and used an Aromatherapy Talking Mat with people with learning disability.

I am an Aromatherapist who works with adults who have a learning disability and often additional communication difficulties. As part of a recent service review I wanted to develop patient involvement. Talking Mats (TM) was suggested as a possible option to support patient feedback. I decided to look into this tool further and access training. During my TMs training I was supported to develop my specific Aromatherapy TM. The main aim behind this initiative was to adopt a system that could identify how each patient felt about the service and identify if there were areas where changes or improvements could be made. I wanted to work closely, alongside each patient, in order to learn how they really felt about their Aromatherapy treatments, their likes/dislikes etc. and to give them a sense of ownership of their sessions. It’s all about giving individuals with a communication difficulty a voice that can be heard.

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The Aromatherapy TM supported patients to understand what is involved in an aromatherapy session and has been effective in helping them to personalise their session.

I used the Aromatherapy TM within the patient’s first session and following their last session, taking a photograph of the completed mats as evidence. The TM is an excellent way of offering a range of different types of massage experience and the patient can select their preferences. I found it an excellent way, to obtain valuable feedback on patient experience. One patient with a severe learning disability and autism was able through the use of symbols, to indicate his dislike for the music being played during his Aromatherapy session. He has no verbal means of communication and feedback like this would not have been achieved if the Aromatherapy TM wasn’t used. Through the implementation of the TM I now have evidence of patient centred practice, in relation to the therapeutic value of the Aromatherapy Service. The Aromatherapy TM supported patients to understand what is involved in an aromatherapy session and has been effective in helping them to personalise their session.

Since the implementation of the Aromatherapy TM, patient feedback is now at the heart of the Service. The patient is now able to openly give comments, make choices on their treatment plan, which in turn is making their attendance at the department, a very pleasurable one and it’s very personal to the individual. Another patient who said that he wasn’t able to read or write, was able to explain what the symbols meant and chose the symbol for happy. He went on to indicate his preferences stating ‘I like foot-spa and a foot massage.’ Prior to using the TMs, I was often reliant on observing the patient’s body language to assess their level of enjoyment and gain feedback. The Aromatherapy TM now allows for a more accurate method of evaluating interventions. I am so enthusiastic about the increased level of patient involvement and the willingness of the patients to become involved in this activity. This project clearly demonstrates the value of involvement, leading to improved partnership working and better experiences.

Cheryl Strutt, Aromatherapist, Cheryl.strutt@belfasttrust.hscni.net

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