Research Article  |   June 2015
Habits of the Sensory System and Mental Health: Understanding Sensory Dissonance
Author Affiliations
  • Antoine L. Bailliard, PhD, OTR/L, is Assistant Professor, Department of Allied Health Sciences, Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; antoine_bailliard@med.unc.edu
Article Information
Mental Health / Mental Health
Research Article   |   June 2015
Habits of the Sensory System and Mental Health: Understanding Sensory Dissonance
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, June 2015, Vol. 69, 6904250020p1-6904250020p8. doi:10.5014/ajot.2015.014977
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, June 2015, Vol. 69, 6904250020p1-6904250020p8. doi:10.5014/ajot.2015.014977
Abstract

OBJECTIVE. In occupational therapy, research has studied sensory function predominantly in relation to sensory disorders. There is a gap in the literature exploring how sensory experiences affect mental health. This study sought to provide a phenomenological understanding of how people relate experiences of sensory dissonance to their mental health.

METHOD. Ten immigrants from Latin America participated in semistructured interviews and video observations of their occupational behavior.

RESULTS. Participants’ experiences of sensory dissonance provoked negative mental states and distress. Participants reported poor mental health following sensory experiences that were incongruent with their habits of sensing. They also intentionally used sensory anchors to induce positive mental states and connect with past occupational experiences.

CONCLUSION. Occupational therapy practitioners should be mindful of how sensory environments can facilitate or impede intervention. Practitioners are encouraged to harness clients’ sensory habits and use sensory anchors as a form of sensory scaffolding to facilitate therapeutic gains.