Therapeutic Brushing Techniques

///Therapeutic Brushing Techniques
Therapeutic Brushing Techniques 2017-01-31T03:36:52-05:00

The Wilbarger Deep Pressure and Proprioceptive Technique (DPPT) & Oral Tactile Technique (OTT)

The Wilbarger Deep Pressure and Proprioceptive Technique (DPPT) & Oral Tactile Technique (OTT), which in the past was referred to as the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol, refers to the specific sensory modulation techniques developed by Patricia Wilbarger, MEd, OTR, FAOTA.  Patricia Wilbarger is an occupational therapist and a clinical psychologist who also known for coining the phrase “sensory diet.”   She is a leading expert in the area of sensory defensiveness.  Simply stated, sensory defensiveness is the over-responsiveness of the protective responses of the nervous system.  She is a co-founder of Sensory Integration International,  the AVANTI camp,   and has published numerous books, articles and videos.   She lectures internationally on the topics of sensory defensiveness and sensory integration.  Some of these publications, the brushes used in the DPPT protocol, and a list of courses with Patricia Wilbarger can be found at Child Development Media, Inc.

Based on the theory of Sensory Integration, the DPPT uses a prescriptive method of providing stimulation to help the mind-brain-body self-organize.   Patricia Wilbarger and her daughter Julia Wilbarger, MS, OTR offer workshops for professionals who wish to use these techniques in practice.  Please note: training is absolutely necessary before attempting to use this technique in practice.  Use requires a trained therapist otherwise harmful or ineffective influences may be the result.

Some of the benefits of the DPPT may include:

  • An improved ability to transition between various daily activities
  • An improvement in the ability to pay attention
  • A decreased fear and discomfort of being touched (tactile defensiveness)
  • An increase in the ability of the central nervous system to use information from the peripheral nervous system more effectively, resulting in enhanced movement coordination, functional communication, sensory modulation, and hence, self-regulation.

The Protocol
The DPPT uses a specific pattern of stimulation delivered using a special type of brush and gentle joint compressions. It is believed to facilitate the coordination of mind-brain-body processes in a manner that influences positive change. It is applied every two hours for a number of days, which is specified by through the collaborative process between the recipient of the protocol and the trained therapist. However, the DPPT protocol may be used between these scheduled two-hour sessions when a person becomes overwhelmed, triggered, when waking up after having nightmares/night terrors, and before and/or after difficult transitions or situations.

The Brushing Step: A Specific Brush is Required
The DPPT requires the use of a special, soft, plastic surgical brush and no other kind. This brush is believed to be the most effective for the delivery of the specific type of stimulation to the nerve endings of the skin that is required by this protocol. The brushing portion of the DTTP applies very firm pressure, which begins at the arms and works down toward the feet. The stomach and chest areas are avoided due to the potential to influence the urge to vomit or urinate when applied over these areas. People may initially find it aversive, particularly those with sensory defensiveness. However, over time it is often much more readily accepted and may become pleasing as the system. Generally, within a few sessions, it becomes a pleasurable experience. When for any reason it is not preferable to use touch methods with people, they can be taught to apply these techniques to themselves.

The Joint Compression Step 
The joint compression portion of this protocol also requires a very specific pattern of application, using a ten-count repetition of light pressure. Self-administration of joint compression may also be obtained by engaging in jumping-jacks, push-ups, a routine consisting of various isometric exercises, etc.

The Oral Swipe
The final component of this protocol is an oral swipe, used for people with oral defensiveness. This step is sometimes omitted due to hygiene and/or safety concerns, as it requires fingers in the mouth. However, people can be taught to do step to themselves.

Important Note: None of these techniques should ever be painful or cause physical damage

The Wilbargers promote the use of these techniques as part of one’s sensory diet. Further, the DPPT may be implemented as one of the sensory modulation modalities used in the Sensory Modulation Program.


Wilbarger, P. & Wilbarger, J.  (1991).  Sensory  Defensiveness in Children Aged 2-12: An Intervention  Guide for Parents and Other Caretakers, Avanti  Educational Programs: Santa Barbara, CA.

Wilbarger, P. (1984, September).  Planning an adequate sensory diet-application of sensory processing theory during the first year of life. Zero to Three, 7-12.

Wilbarger, J. & Wilbarger, P. (2002). Wilbarger approach to treating sensory defensiveness and clinical application of the sensory diet. Sections in alternative and complementary programs for intervention, In Bundy, A.C., Murray, E.A., & Lane, S. (Eds.). Sensory Integration: Theory and Practice, 2nd Ed. F.A. Davis, Philadelphia, PA.

Mental Health Research Study:
Moore, K., &  Henry, A. (2002). Treatment of adult psychiatric patients using the
Wilbarger protocol.
 Occupational Therapy in Mental Health. 18(1), 43-63.

Sensory Modulation Program
Champagne, T. (2006). Sensory Modulation and Environment: Essential Elements of Occupation (2nd Ed). Southampton, MA: Champagne Conferences & Consultation.