The snoezelen process
Anthony M. McCrovitz,
Ph.D., LMHC, BCPC, IMH-E® (II)
President, Indiana Counseling Association (ICA)
Back to local ISNA
The Snoezelen process creates an individualized tailored enriched environment to enhance brain development. We use a combination of language, empathy, emotions, and actions with our tools (eyes, hands, words, and presence) to promote neural integration.
The companion (caregiver) is skilled by the therapist at teaching the individual to become aware of their unconscious processing. We read, interpret, ad reflect the nonverbal communication of the right hemisphere expression with this individual. Non-engagement, negative reaction, and defenses are explored and examined as an area of difficulty and a lagging skill as compared to a maladaptive, inappropriate behavior.
Implicit memory (early, amygdala, nondeclarative (memories for things people can do), procedural learning, emotional responses, behavioral patterns and skill sets). In the form of valuing, teaching, protecting and reciprocating are made conscious and analyzed.
Fears, phobias, and traumas are active along with others thought/reflex processes we might stimulate. This process within the Snoezelen environment allows for the linkage among explicit (later developing, cortical/hippocampal bias, declarative (memories for things people can know), conscious organization of experience, construction of a sense of self) and implicit circuits, conscious awareness, the inhibition and control of anxiety and fears regardless of the individuals or his or her particular cognitive processing level.
The Snoezelen environment teaches a method to help us better understand and use our brains.
The important factors in the Snoezelen process have been identified as an emotionally safe and empathic relationship, the activation of anxiety and stress, and the use of language. A safe and empathic relationship establishes an emotional and neurobiological context conducive to work of neural reorganization. It serves as a buffer and scaffolding within which an individual can better tolerate the stress (learns to befriend) required for neural reorganization.
We already seen that birds are able to learn their “songs” after sensitive periods when exposed to other birds singing, but are unable to learn the same songs heard from a tape recorder. Under certain conditions, birds require positive social interactions and nurturance in order to learn. These studies, combined with what we know about changes in biochemistry during interpersonal interactions, suggest that a positive and attuned interpersonal relationship chances neural plasticity and learning.
The importance of stress in the process of change is reorganized by the Snoezelen process. Releasing the emotions connected to a painful memory, facing a feared situation, or experimenting a new interpersonal relationships all involve some sort of stress, anxiety, or fear. We now have evidence to suggest that emotion and stress stimulate the biochemical environment for neural plasticity. Optimal levels of arousal and stress result in increased production of neurotransmitters and neural growth hormones that enhance Long Term Potential (LTP), learning, and critical reorganization. Stress and emotional expression have been incorporated into the Snoezelen process because of its impact on these underlying biological processes.
One’s cognitive expression in reaction to their lagging skills - an uncontrolled and negative expression of neural plasticity. This “trauma” undoubtedly changes us in many ways, from basic startle functioning to attachment and self-identity.
In the Snoezelen environment we use moderate levels of stress to access the mechanisms of plasticity in a controlled way with specific goals. This safe and empathic relationship provides both the psychological structure and the biological stimulus for rebuilding the brain.
Much of neural integration and reorganization takes place in the association areas of the frontal, temporal and parietal lobes, which serve to coordinate, regulate, and direct multiple neural circuits. They are the brain’s switchboard operators, able to use language, stories, and narratives to link the functioning of systems through the brain and body.
The importance of language and the co-construction of autobiographical narratives are grounded in the co-evolution of the cereal cortex, language, and our complex social structures. Language and significant social relationships build and shape the brain through elation as well was during development of the individual. Because this language in the context of a emotionally meaningful relationship like in Snoezelen process is a key to resculpting neural networks. Through the use of autobiographical memory, we can create narratives that bridge processing from various neural networks into cohesive and integrated story of self. The narrative combines - in conscious memory - our knowledge, sensations, feelings, and behaviors supporting underlying neural network integration.
The impact of enriched environments, such as the Snoezelen environment has demonstrated the brain building capacity of positive experiences throughout one’s lifespan. More recent researching neural plasticity suggest that new experiences, and future potential interventions may be capable of providing us with many tools with which to rebuild the brain.
Snoezelen is on the verge of an exploding a new paradigm.
We appear to experience optional development and integration in a context of a balance of nurturance and optional stress. The disruption of this balance during developments can result in symptoms, maladaptive defense, and psychopathology.
Empathic attunement with the caregiver provides the context of nurturance in which growth and development can occur. By acting processes unloved in attachment and bonding, as well as moderating stress in the Snoezelen environment, empathic attainment may create an optional biochemical environment for enhancing neural plasticity.
The involvement of affect and condition appears necessary in the Snoezelen process in order to create the context for integration of dissociated neural circuits. The mutual participation of affect and cognition are required for optional neural functioning.
Repeated simultaneous activation of networks requiring integration with one a other mostly aid in their integration. This concept parallels the principle from neuroscience that “neurons that fire together, wire together”. The simultaneous activation of neural circuits allows them to stimulate the development of connections within association areas to coordinate and integrate their functioning.
The ability to tolerate and regulate affect creates the necessary condition for the brain’s continued growth throughout life. Increase integration parallels an increase ability to experience and tolerate thoughts and emotions previously inhibited, dissociated, or defended against. Affect regulation may be the most important result of the Snoezelen process across orientations, because it allows for a reconnection with the naturally occurring growthful experiences in life.
Language is an important tool in both neurological and psychological development, The con-construction of narratives between individual and caregiver provides a brand matrix supporting the integration of multiple neural networks. Autobiographical memory creates stories of the self capable of supporting affect regulation in the present and the maintenance of homeostatic functions into the future. Memory, in this form, may maximize neural network integration as it organizes vast amounts of information across multiple pressing tracks. Stories serve to bridge and integrate neural networks both in the present moment and trough time.
Anthony M. McCrovitz, Ph.D., LMHC, BCPC, IMH-E® (II)
President, Indiana Counseling Association (ICA)
Globe Star, LLC
Chesterton, In 46304