Graduation Year


Document Type


Degree Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Occupational Therapy


Background: Mental health legislation over the last several decades has focused on restricting the use of seclusion and restraints within facilities receiving federal financial assistance. Facilities serving psychiatric populations have looked for strategies to eliminate the need for these forced interventions. One strategy is the use sensory-based treatment in occupational therapy intervention. Sensory approaches that have been adopted as ‘best practice’ include the use of sensory rooms, groups and kits to help users learn how to regulate psychological and emotional states of arousal.

Purpose: The purpose of this Capstone Project was to examine the effectiveness of a sensory-based group treatment program in relation to physical acting out behaviors. As a part of skilled occupational therapy treatment within an urban inpatient mental health hospital, a retrospective analysis was implemented to assess whether clients who participated in a sensory-based occupational therapy treatment group provided by a licensed occupational therapist showed a decrease in physical acting-out behaviors within 24 hours following the provided intervention.

Theoretical Framework: This Capstone Project was completed using the transformative worldview. The theory of sensory integration to provide participants with evidence-based strategies to reduce seclusion and restraints related to dealing with unwanted behaviors, and to provide client-centered coping techniques.

Methods: This Capstone Project was designed as a program evaluation utilizing retrospective analysis through the use of a PRECEDE-PROCEED Model of evaluation. of an occupational therapy treatment an urban acute inpatient psychiatric hospital. This Capstone Project assessed the effectiveness of a sensory-based program used within the research facility to decrease unwanted behaviors and prevent the need for seclusion and restraint. Participants were selected using convenience sampling of patients that resided on the two selected research units during time of data analysis. The Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS) and the daily seclusion and restraint report were utilized as data collection methods to assess pre and post intervention responses from both the participant and occupational therapist/group leader.

Results: Paired t-tests revealed statistically significant results in client rankings their perceived level of distress before and after the provided sensory-based group intervention (p

Conclusion: This Capstone Project served as a pilot project providing insight into the effectiveness of sensory-based occupational therapy treatments used within the acute inpatient psychiatric setting. The results of this Capstone Project demonstrated positive outcomes related to using sensory-based strategies to reduce or eliminate unwanted behaviors. It also provides a basis for further research into how these forms of intervention could reduce the need for other forms of forced interventions or be utilized outside of the hospital setting in order for people living with mental illness to live in the community setting successfully.

Faculty Mentor

Shirley P. O'Brien

Department Affiliation

Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

Committee Member

Julie Baltisberger

Department Affiliation

Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy