Introduction Mental health is the leading cause of disability in the world. Occupational therapists can work with individuals by including meaningful occupation engagement as a means of attaining improved mental health. An emerging niche in this field is the use of sensory approaches as a therapeutic strategy. Occupational therapists observe how sensory systems relate to everyday living, and are continuing to research the use of sensory approaches as a means of attaining desired mental health outcomes. Description Mental health consists of emotional well-being along with social and psychosocial well-being. The mental health of an individual will also have an impact on physical well-being. Problems with mental health may be triggered by a life experience or it may stem from a family history or biological predisposition. Typical mental health settings for an occupational therapist would be a community center, psychosocial clubs, shelters, correctional facilities, consumer-directed services, schools and extracurricular activities, and work sites. Occupational therapists use sensory approaches as a range of therapeutic strategies to help clients regulate emotional arousal and physiological arousal. According to Scanlan and Novak (2015), sensory approaches are non-invasive, self-directing, and empowering interventions used in mental health. There has been an increased amount of research done in this area recently creating evidence-based reasoning making it an emerging niche. Depending on the individual, each person will seek a different “sensory diet”. This term was created by Champagne and Stromberg (2005) to describe the individualized need for sensory stimulation. Optimal functioning will occur when an individual is using his/her preferred sensorimotor experiences. This is important to keep in mind as a client-centered profession. An individual with an ideal sensory diet will become centered and have improved functioning throughout the day. According to Scanlan & Novak (2015), some popular approaches to sensory in mental health include sensory rooms, sensory groups, sensory kits, and sensory integration programs. Because of the diverse sensory needs of individuals, sensory rooms are a popular means of delivering sensory needs. Sensory rooms provide a comfortable and soothing environment in which sensory input can be provided through lighting, tactile input (stress balls, different feeling fabrics, or fidget gadgets), olfactory stimulation may be done through aromatherapy, and other devices geared toward specific needs. Sensory groups allow engagement in a series of sensory-engaging activities throughout a session. Sensory kits are specifically designed for an individual’s needs. Sensory kits include items that may be used in times of crisis or as preventative measures to help calm or recenter an individual (Van Son & Fitzgerald, 2012). Kits may include items such as weighted blankets, different brushing tools, stress balls, varying tactile objects, journaling material, and fidget toys. Kits are a low-cost option for someone who does not have the resources of a sensory room or group available.Who’s PracticingThis emerging niche has received attention from people across the globe; occupational therapists from the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand have been conducting research on the use of sensory approaches in mental health (Champagne & Stromberg, 2004). Sensory integration should be done by an occupational therapist but they may collaborate with nurses and others in the interdisciplinary team including nurses, physicians, speech language pathologists, psychologists, physical therapists, and caretakers with understanding of the client. For individuals living in facilities, direct-care staff should be educated on the use of the possibilities for sensory stimulation and the effect it has on mental health. This will allow staff to observe and act appropriately; therefore, possibly implementing preventative strategies incorporating sensory stimulation geared toward the individual.Publications Research in this area continues to expand in the field of occupational therapy, nursing, psychology, and sociology. As this topic is gaining interest in the occupational therapy field it is becoming a part of the educational process for future occupational therapists. Some literature is being published with chapters based on this topic. For example, Occupational Therapy in Psychiatry and Mental Health, Fifth Edition by Rosemary Crouch, Vivyan Alers and Annamarie van Jaarsveld (2014) was written with a chapter titled “Sensory Integration in Mental Health”. In addition, there have been research articles done as a literary review. Scalan and Novak (2015) completed a review of 17 studies related to the sensory approaches that are currently being used in the mental health field. A range of sensory approaches were used and analyzed through this study to determine that sensory approaches are safe and effective to use in this field, but further research should be done.FundingIndividuals may receive services that include sensory integration in therapy such as occupational therapy. In this case, the services provided would be covered by health insurance. Funding may also be received through private organizations based on sensory needs based on an individual’s condition, illness, or disability. For example, a group may advocate to The Peter and Elizabeth C Tower Foundation (for mental health) to put in a sensory gym in an area of need. Other foundations, similar to the Tower Foundation have local services that may give scholarships and grants to deserving individuals. Influences The roots of occupational therapy go back to the age of enlightenment in the late 1800’s. This is when people began to realize there was inhumane treatment occurring in asylums around the world. Moral treatment focused on giving individuals who had mental health problems a way of occupying their mind. Patients began to be treated more ethically as a result of moral treatment. Jean Ayers is known as one of the founders of the field of occupational therapy. She is known for her work in sensory integration which stemmed from her background in neurobiology (Schell, Gillen, & Scaffa, 2014). Jean used sensory integration when studying learning disabilities and the vestibular system. Her work is marked as one of the first in the field of occupational therapy to be grounded in an evidence-based approach (Mailloux & Miller-Kuhaneck, 2014). Theories The recovery model is a process in which an individual is not defined by a condition or illness, but instead defined by purpose, control, and participation in meaningful activities. The use of sensory integration in mental health allows for individuals to strive in an environment containing appropriate sensory richness. This promotes participation in meaningful activities, which gives purpose. This model was used by many in the mental health field in decreasing the use of restraints (Barton, Johnson, & Lydia, 2004). The public health prevention model is a type of health promotion model that takes into account primary and secondary prevention strategies. When using this model, threats, barriers, and possible benefits are determined to guide how action will be taken. Primary strategies take a preventative approach while secondary strategies are used immediately to resolve conflict (Champagne & Stromberg, 2004). Sociopolitical A large focus in the area at this time is the reduction of restraint use in mental health. Champagne and Stromberg (2004) focus on the use of individual preferences of sensorimotor input rather than restriction through restraint. Restraints are used in case of an emergency to keep the individual and others safe from harm. One way to decrease the use of these restraints is through preventative strategies using sensory input. In the study done by Barton, Johnson, and Lydia (2009) there was a decrease in the use of restraints after a comfort room was added to an inpatient facility. Some questioned if it reduced due to increases in medication, but there were actually decreases in sedatives given, and decrease in restraint usage. Conclusion Mental health was the root of the practice of occupational therapy. There have been significant evolutions to this practice over the last 100 years. It has been proven that sensory approaches can be beneficial for the population included in mental health, which is the number one cause of disability in the world. Though the use of sensory approaches is expanding in the mental health field, further research needs to be done on the effectiveness of each approach using a broader population.