Sensory Modulation “More than Materials”: Investigating the factors influencing implementation in inpatient mental health units

Ms Lisa Wright1,2, Associate Professor  Sally Bennett1, Professor Pamela Meredith1,3
1School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland , Brisbane, Australia, 2The Prince Charles Hospital, Metro North Mental Health Service, Brisbane, Australia, 3School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Australia

The use of sensory modulation approaches is considered best practice for eliminating restrictive practices in Australian mental health inpatient units. These approaches have been shown to reduce patient/consumer distress, agitation, and the need for seclusion and restraint. Nevertheless, there is evidence that implementation of sensory modulation strategies has been challenging in many psychiatric units. Literature suggests that implementation strategies can effectively support inclusion of new approaches by addressing potential barriers to change and supporting likely enabling factors. The aim of this study was to gain a better understanding of the barriers and enablers influencing implementation of sensory modulation approaches in mental health inpatient units in one health region in Queensland, to inform implementation strategies.

A qualitative study design was used to identify the barriers and enablers influencing implementation of sensory modulation approaches in mental health inpatient units. Three focus groups were undertaken with a total of 15 participants from nursing and allied health disciplines. Framework analysis using the Theoretical Domains Framework was used to analyse data.

Overall, participants were positive about the use of sensory modulation approaches and could see its benefits for reducing distress. Barriers and enablers to the use of sensory modulation approaches were identified mainly within eight domains: knowledge, skills, professional role, belief about capabilities and consequences, emotions, social influences, and environmental factors.

The numerous challenges and opportunities related to implementing sensory modulation approaches in mental health inpatient units, identified in this study, provide insights to support effective implementation of these approaches.


Lisa is an Occupational Therapist with over 20 years’ experience specialising in mental health. She currently works at the Prince Charles Hospital as the Recovery Occupational Therapist while undertaking her Masters of Philosophy researching sensory modulation in mental health care. She was recently awarded the The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation New Researcher Grant to conduct her research in sensory modulation approaches.

She has worked in a wide range of positions in mental health including inpatient services, community care teams, acute care assessment teams, psychogeriatric and eating disorders.
While working as the Allied Health Educator she led the coordination and evaluation of sensory modulation training for The Prince Charles Hospital. She is passionate about improving the quality of care for consumers with mental illness through the use of evidence based practice.


TERP focuses on identifying, avoiding and reducing harm across all environments in which the care of people with mental ill health is provided. TERP inforces Australia’s commitment to reduce the use of, and eliminate restrictive practices as a priority for action. Each jurisdiction, in conjunction with the Safety and Quality Partnership Standing Committee and the Commonwealth Government, works towards this vision by holding a series of forums providing an opportunity to learn and grow from local and national initiatives to eliminate restrictive practices and create a dialogue for future care.

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