#OTalk 31st July 2018 – The use of Sensory Based Interventions in Psychiatric Settings.

This weeks chat is on the use of sensory based approaches in psychiatric settings and will be hosted by Rachel Rule (@RRuleOT).  Here is what Rachel had to say…

Champagne and Stromberg (2004) discuss the use of sensory approaches as innovative alternatives to restraint and seclusion for people residing in psychiatric inpatient settings. Sensory interventions are found to offer creative strategies and promote health and recovery and can be applied across various age groups, diagnoses and levels of care. Scanlan and Novak (2015) also highlight sensory based interventions as being non-invasive, self-directed and empowering. Sensory based interventions can support recovery-focused and trauma informed practice in the self-management of distress.

At the 2017 Royal College of Occupational Therapy conference I attended a ‘Sensory Circuits’ Occupation Station, facilitated by Laura Smalley and Jamie Lee Nelson. The session showcased the group that Laura and Jamie were currently running in their inpatient mental health setting, with children and adolescents. Engaging in this session and further email conversations with Laura has driven a personal inspiration to learn more about the use of sensory based interventions in psychiatric settings. In my second-year placement in a CAMHS hospital I replicated this session with support of my practice educator, and the feedback from the young people was highly positive. The sensory sessions were delivered in conjunction with Dialectical Behavioural Therapy and supported the young people to make links between their body, mind and actions. The young people repeatedly requested the sensory circuits session and 1:1 sessions where they could develop their coping strategies with the use of the items provided. These items could be readily purchased at home, to support wellbeing in the community when they were discharged from hospital.

Sensory based interventions could include the use of coloured lights, aromatherapy, textured items, sweet, salty or sour flavours and relaxing music or sounds. Weighted blankets can be used to provide deep pressure and touch. Personalised, smaller sensory kits can also be created to be used independently (Scanland and Novak, 2015; Champage, Koomar and Olson, 2010; Champagne and Stromberg, 2004).

Have you ever used sensory based approaches in practice?  Which area of psychiatric practice do you work in?

  1. What do you perceive to be the barriers or benefits to using sensory based approaches in psychiatric settings? What made you chose to/chose not to use this approach historically?
  2. What would the role of the Occupational Therapist be in facilitating sensory based interventions?
  3. Do you feel that sensory based approaches could reduce the use of seclusion and restraint in your area of practice?
  4. How would you envision the use of sensory based interventions within your current practice setting?


Champagne, T. and Stromberg, N. (2004) ‘Sensory approaches in inpatient psychiatric settings. Innovative alternatives to seclusion and restraint’, Journal of Psychosocial Nursing, 42(9), pp. 33-44.

Champagne, T., Koomar, J. and Olson, L. (2010) ‘Sensory processing evaluation and intervention in mental health’, OT Practice, 15, pp. 1-7.

Scanlan, J. N. and Novak, T. (2015) ‘Sensory approaches in mental health: a scoping review’, Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 62(5), pp. 277-285.

Post Chat

Host; Rachel Rule (@RRuleOT)

Support on the #OTalk account;  Rachel Booth @OT_rach

Online Transcript

#OTalk Healthcare Social Media Transcript July 31st 2018

The Numbers

831.511K Impressions
287 Tweets
43 Participants
230 Avg Tweets/Hour
Avg Tweets/Participant

#OTalk Participants

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