Sensory modulation implementation in mental health services: The North Queensland experience

Mrs Luciana Theodoro De Freitas1, Mrs Andrea Catt1, Mrs Nikeea Cross1, Mrs Wendy Freedman1, Mrs Sally Rathbone1, Mrs Erin Aumann1, Mrs Xanthia Venz1

1Queensland Health, Townsville, Australia

Background: The use of Sensory Modulation (SM) interventions have increased in Mental Health (MH) settings in the last few years. These interventions assist consumers to self-regulate their emotional and physiological arousal states increasing their occupational engagement, self-awareness and dignity. Occupational Therapists (OTs) have taken a lead role in the implementation of these practices with a view to improving outcomes for consumers and service delivery. This project summarises the steps taken to incorporate and consolidate sensory approaches in a regional Hospital and Health Service in North Queensland.

Method: A SM working party was convened by OTs under the supervision of their professional senior. A literature review was conducted to identify the safe and efficient implementation of sensory approaches. Staff members participated in formal SM training to ensure consistency in knowledge and application across settings. SM resources such as weighted blankets, massage chairs, fidget items and other sensory tools were purchased. Procedures, local instruction documents, a Personal Sensory Plan and Weighted Modality Plan documentation tools were developed, trialled and implemented within the inpatient units. A Clinical Competency Assessment and training for the use of weighted modalities were also developed increasing confidence and knowledge of staff in implementing sensory plans.

Results: Preliminary findings have shown increased use of sensory assessments and interventions by OTs. Consumers have been regularly requesting SM resources as part of their coping strategies in inpatient settings. Community OTs have shown interest in participating in the SM working group with initial discussion and implementation of this approach being rolled out into community services.

Conclusion: SM appears to be well received by OTs and consumers both in inpatient and community mental health services. Sustainable funding, and developing multidisciplinary capacity in competently using SM will be an ongoing challenge for OTs in delivering sensory approaches.


Luciana is a passionate Occupational Therapist currently employed as a Clinical Research Coordinator in Queensland Health.  She has a strong commitment for evidence based approaches and values research through clinical experiences. She is highly interested in research within aged care and adult mental health population.

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