Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 12-21-2018


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Occupational Therapy


Rangos School of Health Sciences

Committee Chair

Amy Mattila

Committee Member

Jaime P. Muñoz


sensory, Veteran, sensory-based, occupational therapy, self-regulation, modulation, Recovery Model, Adolescent and Adult Sensory Profile, Cognistat, inpatient pyschiatric unit


The doctoral experiential component (DEC) for this Capstone was completed at the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System (VA) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The program, called Sense of Self, was implemented with the Veteran mental health (MH) population in an inpatient psychiatric rehabilitation unit at the VA. Sense of Self was a three-day educational program that educated Veterans on the sensory systems and sensory processing, provided calming or alerting strategies with use of sensory materials, and assisted the Veterans in creating sensory home programs based on personal goals. The goals of this Capstone were to inform the staff of the Veteran demographic population being served on the inpatient psychiatric unit at the VA, improve the Veterans’ self-regulation, and assist the Veterans in creating sensory home programs.

Based on the evidence, numerous Veterans are experiencing mental illness in the United States (U.S.). Often, these Veterans find it difficult to manage their mental illness. In addition, many Veterans have comorbid conditions that interfere with their occupational performance and function, such as sensory dysfunction, cognitive deficits, and other psychological symptoms. To address this challenge, occupational therapy (OT) uses the Recovery Model as a guiding framework when providing sensory-based interventions to target improved self-regulation for these Veterans with mental illness. Sensory-based interventions have been grounded in evidence with positive results in improving self-regulation for individuals with mental illness.

Using the evidence identified during the literature review, Sense of Self was developed and ran for 11-weeks with new groups of Veterans each week. There were 42 Veterans evaluated for the program and a total of 16 Veterans completed the full three days. Each of the three goals for the program were achieved. The Veteran demographics consisted of cognitively intact Veterans who were mostly single, unemployed, white/Caucasian males with diagnoses of depression, substance abuse, or schizophrenia. Statistically significant results indicate that the Sense of Self program improved self-regulation skills, decreased arousal levels, increased a sense of calmness with the Veterans, and improved the overall knowledge of sensory information that the Veterans had. All of the Veteran participants created a sensory home program with supervision.