Date of Award
Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)
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.
Harmon, Elyse, "Sensory Approach to Self-Regulation for Adolescent Survivors of Sex Trafficking: An Occupational Therapist's Perspective" (2020). Student Capstone Projects. 39.