Diffusing Essential Oils in a Group Home

Diffusing essential oils in a group home is a great way to offer emotional support to all who live and work there.

doTERRA Petal diffuser diffusing essential oils
Image by Devanath from Pixabay

Diffusing essential oils in my son’s group home has been very beneficial. He can’t have access to the essential oil bottles because of safety concerns and he exhibits anxiety when he sees an essential oil bottle half empty. As a result, I created a Smell Kit made up of plastic nasal inhalers infused with essential oils and this kit offers an opportunity for him to choose essential oils to diffuse which has provided a great workaround. In this article I will explain how the Smell Kit is created and how its use has been implemented in the group home.

One of his stims is seeing the levels of items in containers fall below an acceptable level (known only to him). For example, if the cornflakes container is half empty, he may feel cornflakes need to be eaten (finished) because seeing the low level of the container causes him distress. The same applies to the level of oil in an essential oil bottle. A half empty bottle of Frankincense needs to be finished, so he may feel the need to empty the bottle into a diffuser to ‘finish it off’. While this might be financially OK with Wild Orange (at a stretch), Frankincense is an entirely different matter!

There is also an issue of safety – the little bottles can become missiles. Therefore, I needed to create a system whereby he could still have agency to choose an oil(s) but did not have direct access to the essential oil bottles.

This is where nasal inhalers have worked a treat and the Smell Kit was created. Staff are responsible for handling the essential oil bottles and adding the oil drops into a diffuser.

The many benefits of diffusing essential oils can be found elsewhere on the net. But if you’d like a great introduction to diffusing essential oils, see the doTERRA eBook link in the Resources section below.

Required Items for the Smell Kit

  • 2 x hard case essential oil carry cases – size will depend on your essential oil collection.
    Go bigger -the collection grows!
  • Nasal inhalers
  • Small notebook for staff to record the oils chosen and any other relevant emotion data that may help to determine choice patterns
  • Pen
  • Essential Emotions (1) book, (2) wheel (3) Feelings Guide (any or all of these products)
  • List of all oils that make up the Smell Kit
  • Compic to be placed on a visual schedule (optional)
  • Ultrasonic diffuser

Storage of the Smell Kit

Both the nasal inhaler bag and the essential oil bag are kept out of sight from my son in the supervisor’s office. The diffuser is in a main living area where it can be monitored by staff and the smell diffuses effectively. My son has been known to chew on electrical cords – so be mindful of the safe placement of the diffuser.

Consideration of Others in the Home

Smell is individualistic. An aroma loved by one person may be disliked by another. Always be considerate of those who will be experiencing the diffusion of the essential oils.

Setting up Smell Kit Box #1

Each nasal inhaler was filled with ten drops of an essential oil or blend placed onto the wick. The inhaler is simple to construct. Each base was labelled using the dōTERRA cap labels.

Nasal inhaler construction
Nasal inhaler construction

All nasal inhalers are one colour. I chose white because it is neutral. I did not want the oil or blend chosen to be based on the colour of the nasal inhaler. My son has limited speech, so I opted to eliminate what could sway his decision to choose because he does not have the language to tell me why he is choosing an oil. While the cap labels are coloured and may influence the oil chosen, this does not appear to have been the case so far. The nasal inhalers were purchased from Vitalia. While their website states a mixed selection of colours, I rang them before placing the order and requested that all the inhalers be white. They were happy to accommodate.

A diary entry was created for 6 months’ time to refresh the wicks. Generally, the ends of the nasal inhalers are easy to pull off with your nail, although I had a few that wouldn’t come off so they needed replacing.

The nasal inhalers are organised alphabetically.

Nasal inhaler Smell Kit

The type of display case I purchased has a mesh flap that easily holds the Feelings Guide and Emotions Wheel.

Setting up Smell Kit Box #2

The essential oil box contains:

  • dōTERRA essential oil bottles
  • Notebook
  • Pen

The essential oils are organised alphabetically.

Visual Schedule

Use a compic on a visual schedule for morning, afternoon, and evening – as applicable. You can make up your own by taking a photo of the diffuser used. Alternatively, use the one below, which you can download.

Compic visual for visual schedule "diffuser - choose oils"
Compic for visual schedule

Supporting Documentation for the Smell Kit

You cannot assume that all staff will be aware of essential oils, how to use them, or why they should consider using them. Therefore, your goal is to make using them as easy as possible. The following documentation supports the Smell Kit.

  1. Essential Emotions book, wheel and/or Feelings Guide.
  2. Blends and their Compositions spreadsheet.
  3. Smell Kit essential oils list.
  4. dōTERRA have produced a great eBook resource on why you should consider the aromatic use of essential oils. See Resources section for link.

It is important to personalise the Smell Kit. For example, Lavender, Lavender Peace, and Peppermint essential oils are not included in my son’s kit. We have already identified that my son does not like these oils. He screwed up his face when offered the Peppermint nasal inhaler and punched his nose hard twice when he smelled the nasal inhaler for the Motivate blend (which has Peppermint essential oil in it). This has been important feedback – we now know to steer clear of peppermint smelling products e.g., toothpaste, or traditional calming products that could have lavender in them. Over time, additional essential oils and blends may be removed due to the dislike of their aroma.

It is valuable to include information that will help the staff understand an essential oil better because you can’t assume they will know particular essential oil characteristics. For example, Vetiver takes a long time to come out of the bottle. A staff member felt the bottle ‘wasn’t working’ as the oil wouldn’t come out. Staff won’t know that Vetiver is a very thick, viscous essential oil that is best warmed in the hands for a few minutes before trying to get a drop out. Similarly, you might like to add an extra note around Geranium as it is very strong, and one or two drops is all that should be needed of this powerful aroma.

Essential Emotions Products

Essential Emotions have wonderful products specifically created to explore how essential oils can be used for emotional support.

  • Essential Emotions book
  • Feelings Guide
  • Essential Emotions Wheel

doTERRA Blends and their Compositions

If you find there is a negative reaction to an essential oil, you will need to determine which blends this oil is part of and make sure it’s not part of the Smell Kit.

I have created a spreadsheet called “doTERRA Blends and their Compositions” which itemises the dōTERRA blends and their oil composition (which single oils make up the oil blend).

Using a filter, or just by scanning your eye down a column, you can easily determine which blends contain a particular essential oil. The example below shows Lavender.

Identifying individual essential oils in doTERRA blends
Identifying individual essential oils in doTERRA blends

You can download the spreadsheet here:

Smell Kit Essential Oil List

Make a list of all the essential oils used in the Smell Kit.

I typed them into a Word document and sorted them alphabetically. This is a useful summary of what the kit contains.

Below is a list of many of the doTERRA essential oils. Download the Word document and edit to customise as needed.

Documentation Folder

Purchase an A4 folder to keep all the Smell Kit documentation together.

Label tab inserts for:

  • dōTERRA Blends and their Composition spreadsheet
  • eBook “Emotional Aromatherapy”
  • Charts
    • doTERRA Emotional Aromatherapy Kit Emotions Wheel
    • doTERRA Oil Chemistry Wheel
    • Emotions Mentor Emotions Wheel

You can find the charts in the free eBook – see below.

Diffusing Essential Oils using an Ultrasonic Diffuser

“A diffuser takes an essential oil and transforms it into a fine, microscopic mist of oil droplets, dispersing the droplets (and scent) through the air. This allows you to experience the aroma for an extended time period.” (doTERRA)

doTERRA Petal and Lumo ultrasonic diffusers
Several doTERRA ultrasonic diffusers

Choose an ultrasonic diffuser appropriate for the size of the room it will be used in. For example, dōTERRA has a Petal diffuser which is a great option for a 30m2 area. Alternatively, the Lumo diffuser covers 50m2. There are also many diffuser retailers so search for the one to best suit your needs. It is generally best to diffuse in short intervals throughout the day rather than continually for long periods at a time. Many diffusers have intermittent settings for this reason.

Fill the diffuser with cold water up to the mark inside the receptacle and add the essential oil. Replace the lid, turn on to the setting and enjoy. Learn more here: https://media.doterra.com/us/en/ebooks/aromatic-use.pdf

How Many Drops in the Diffuser?

The number of drops added into a diffuser will depend on:

  • The size of the room
  • The strength of the essential oil aroma. Some essential oils, like Geranium, are very strong and only a drop or two should be required.

Always start off conservatively. Add 3-5 drops and determine if the ambiance created by the diffusing oils is to everyone’s liking. You can always add more drops, but to go less, you’ll have to empty out the diffuser and start again if the aroma is too strong.

How to Put the Smell Kit into Action

In the morning (for example) the staff determine my son’s mood if possible. Does he seem a little sad? Is he angry? Does he have appointments or commitments that may involve transitions?

Based on these observations, staff go to the Emotions Wheel or Feelings Guide and pick three nasal inhalers from those suggested for that emotion. The nasal inhalers are presented to my son for him to smell and then he will choose the one for the diffuser. Staff will then dispense the chosen essential oil drops into the diffuser. The choice is recorded in the notebook.

The same process is repeated in the afternoon and/or evening as necessary. Only staff handle the essential oil bottles and prepare the diffuser.

Some points to consider when embedding:

  • Action implementing essential oils and diffusing in small steps as staff may feel overwhelmed and feel it’s a bit too much. Change, for anyone, can be problematic and the introduction of the Smell Kit represents a new support strategy. It may be useful if you’ve helped staff understand the how and why over time and laid the foundation for using essential oils. See additional resources.
  • You (Carer) to set up the kit. This takes time and there is a cost.
  • The importance of Supervisor/Co-Ordinator getting staff to understand it’s an additional support, and to be persistent and consistent in the delivery and use
  • Having one or two staff champion the initiative, who are already using and value essential oils (particularly doTERRA), has made implementation easier as they can also talk about their own oil journeys
  • The group home advised they discovered they enjoy the “feel” it recreates in the environment
  • They noted benefit to all co-residents (and staff)
  • Surprisingly no one has damaged the diffusers
  • Most of all my son’s feedback is getting all the staff talking, it’s the best feedback. He said, “It’s just wonderful.” (Priceless!)
It's just wonderful quote from Matthew Stoves

(Thanks to the Co-Ordinator of my son’s group home who provided this valuable feedback).

With Gratitude

I’d like to acknowledge my appreciation and gratitude to the group home staff for embracing the Smell Kit to support my son emotionally. My son is benefiting, we are gathering important smell feedback, and the staff are also enjoying this endeavour.

Emotional Aromatherapy Resource eBook

I have created an eBook for you to download if you would like to explore more resources about emotions and essential oils. The book is interactive – click on images or links to be taken to websites where you can learn more.

Free eBook


Nasal Inhalers

Vitalia https://www.vitalia.com.au/

50-pack: https://www.vitalia.com.au/kits/nasal-inhaler-50-pack

Contact: https://www.vitalia.com.au/form/contact-us/ or 07 3189 2511

Essential Oil Cases

Amagogo 60 Holes Essential Oil Carry Case Storage Box Cosmetic Bottle Display Holder – Blue Stripe (Amazon)

Amagogo 60 Holes Essential Oil Carry Case Storage Box Cosmetic Bottle Display Holder – Green Stripe (Amazon)

Essential Emotions

Book: https://essentialemotions.com/shop/

App: https://essentialemotions.com/essential-emotions-app/

The Essential Life book: https://www.oillife.com/products/essential-life-book-8th-edition

Aromatic Use of Essential Oils eBook by dōTERRA: https://media.doterra.com/us/en/ebooks/aromatic-use.pdf

Working with Essential Oils in Autism Syndrome Disorder (ASD)
by Jonathan Benavides – Clinical Aromatherapist, Psychologist, Counsellor from Aromatika Magazine 2021 8.2.1


This information is intended for educational purposes only. The statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Anyone suffering from any disease, illness or injury should consult with a medical practitioner. These suggested uses apply only to dōTERRA essential oils.

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