Who is an Occupational Therapist?
Occupational Therapist is a healthcare worker trained in physical, psychological and social aspects of human functioning to enable individuals across lifespan by optimizing, improving and restoring their abilities to perform activities of daily living, work, play, education, leisure, rest and sleep, and social participation and alleviate limitations or disabilities through adaptive methods.
Less Known Role of a Mental Health Occupational Therapist
Occupational therapist work in association with a physician, nurse, physiotherapist, speech therapist and rehabilitation psychologist composing a multidisciplinary team in order to provide quality service to the patient. OTs play an important role as a mental health therapist where they work with individuals on a large continuum of mental health challenges, including people with substance-use disorders, mental illness, eating disorders, or stress-related challenges.
Approaches of an Occupational Therapist
Occupational therapists utilize skilled observations simultaneously with evaluation of motor and process skills to establish an individualized treatment plan. They use different approaches at various places including:
- Standardized evaluations and assessments
- Self-regulation and coping strategies
- Skills training
- Mental health literacy
- Implementation of healthy habits and routines
- Behavioral interventions
- Lifestyle redesign
Techniques used by an OT
A mental health occupational therapist aims to promote positive mental health, prevent mental health problems, and help manage mental health challenges by providing individual-centered care that promotes participation in meaningful occupations in everyday life.
Skilled interventions used by an OT may include:
- Group Therapy
- Stress-reduction and relaxation strategies
- Music therapy
- Play and recreational therapy
- Independent living evaluation
- Group Therapy
Various groups are led by OTs in the group process including
- life skills
- job readiness
- therapeutic cooking
- money management
- wellness recovery action plans
- therapeutic leisure
- independent living
- conditional counseling (anxiety, panic, depression, family problems, addictions, etc.)
Attending a group therapy not only means discussing and working on your problems but also to learn different new skills from others in the group session guided by a professional.
- Stress-inoculation and Relaxation Strategies
It is a method intended to help patients prepare themselves in advance to handle stressful events successfully and with a minimum of upset.
OT will work with the patient to achieve stress reduction and improve occupational performance through evidence-based and practical interventions (relaxation therapy, mindfulness, fatigue management, solution focused therapy, therapeutic use of activity).
Patient may develop techniques to:
- Identify symptoms and causes to stress (physical, emotional, behavioral)
- Recognize beliefs and thoughts that have proven to be self-defeating and reduce quality of life
- Develop new ways to cope with stress, improve sleep and a variety of relaxation and meditation techniques, including mindfulness
- Identify and adopt desirable health behaviors
- Learn time management skills
Learning what drives problems with stress and addressing the factors that are significant are at the heart of the effective stress management. A program plan is developed based on the needs and goals, both pre and post evaluation is conducted to review progress of the patient.
- Music Therapy
OTs treat people dealing with issues ranging from depression, anxiety, traumatic brain injury, dementia, chronic pain, Parkinson’s, and difficulty socializing. Music has been used as an aid to all of them incorporating music as a potential treatment intervention providing a more positive environment for the patients, can help them see benefits more quickly, and persist long term.
Music can instill a sense of peace and relaxation to the patients with anxiety and has an unknown cause or is because of another medical problem.
It can give those who are non-verbal a means of communication. This applies to those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It can activate areas of brain otherwise inaccessible and help people recall memories they would not be able to otherwise.
Other than the ability to improve overall mood and social functioning, physical problems are also remedied by music. It can induce neuroplasticity and physical changes in brain, which is useful for patients with brain injuries for relearning how to perform everyday tasks.
- Reduces chronic as well as acute pain
- Decreases anxiety and depression symptoms
- Promotes neuroplasticity
- Improves the ability to socialize
- Help focus and memory
- Play and recreational therapy
An OT can use play and recreational therapy to observe and gain insights into an individual’s problems and help them explore their emotions and deal with unresolved trauma.
Play and recreational therapy can be used in cases of:
- Chronic illness, or palliative care
- Developmental delay or learning disabilities
- Unresolved childhood issues
- Aggressive behavior
- Natural disasters or traumatic events
- Domestic violence, abuse, or neglect
- Anxiety, grief, depression
- ADHD or ASD or PTSD
- Learning ADLs
Benefits of play and recreational therapy include:
- Taking more responsibility for certain behaviors
- Developing coping strategies and creative problem-solving skills
- Strength and physical fitness
- Empathy and respect for others
- Alleviation of anxiety and depression
- Learning to fully experience and express feelings
- Stronger social skills
- Stronger family relationships
While playing, patient becomes less guarded and more apt to share their feelings without any pressure. Therapists pay close attention to how the patient handles being separated, playing alone, and how they react being in crowd again. After a thorough assessment, the therapist will set some therapeutic goals, decide on what limits should be put, and formulate a plan for how to proceed.
- Creative visualization
- Sports, video, board games
- Storytelling, drama, role-playing, puppets, stuffed animals and masks
- Arts and crafts
- Dance and creative movement and musical play
- Gardening, cooking
- Independent Living Evaluation
Fostering independence is important because:
- It builds self-confidence
- It decreases the workload of the caregivers
- It can prevent learned helplessness
OTs can help foster independence:
- By providing visual supports, a schedule, and manipulative objects
- By breaking tasks down into smaller steps, or modify them
- By giving choices for the tasks and instructions for how to perform tasks
- By using multi-sensory prompts
- By reteaching basic movements, from getting in and out of bed, to getting in and out of shower
- By regaining motor skills and confidence with simple tasks like opening and closing toothpaste tubes, buttons and zips, stacking up coins, and picking up small objects
- With individualized strength-based training using theraputty and hand therapy