Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Susan MacDermott

Second Advisor

Becki Cohill

Third Advisor

Erin Schwier

Medical Subject Headings

Human Trafficking, Psychological Trauma, Mental Health, Emotional Regulation, Self-Control, Occupational Therapy, Needs Assessment


Adolescent survivors of sex trafficking (SST) are susceptible to being in a continual dysregulated arousal state due to lack of mastery in self-regulation. During the trafficking experience, many adolescent SST experience severe trauma and are deprived of opportunities that foster essential regulatory capacities needed for occupational engagement. The use of sensory-based approaches that focus on addressing arousal dysregulation and the impact it has on occupation is an evidence-based practice grounded in occupational therapy research.

This capstone sought to support community reintegration for adolescent SST through the development of sensory-based programming that fosters self-regulation, a skill necessary for occupational participation. A needs assessment of 13 adolescent SST at a short term residential therapeutic program identified that challenges in self-regulation had a negative impact on sleep, education, feeding, leisure, and social participation.

The student developed a 7-week program that addressed four main components including a) education regarding the autonomic nervous system, b) sensory approaches to self-regulation, c) creation of routines, d) environmental modifications.

This capstone suggests occupational therapists have a large role in the reintegration process for adolescent SST. Through empowering survivors to establish sensory-based routines that foster self-regulation, this program lays a foundation for lifelong occupational participation.


Capstone project submitted to the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Occupational Therapy