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“I didn’t know OT’s worked in Mental Health!” An insight into Mental Health Occupational Therapy

mental health mom support mum support occupational therapy self help strategies woman health woman supporting woman Nov 03, 2021

“I didn’t know OT’s worked in Mental health! “

 I have heard this statement countless times over the years, second to, “Is it the same as Occupational Health at work?” (No, it’s not...)

So, as it has been World Occupational Therapy Day last week, and Occupational Therapy week this week– I thought there was no better time to give you an insight into the world of Mental Health Occupational Therapy, and why LB Therapy was created.

“Occupational Therapy (OT) is a science degree-based, health and social care profession, regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (UK). Occupational Therapy takes a ‘whole-person approach’ to both mental and physical health and well-being and enables individuals to achieve their full potential” Royal College of Occupational Therapists.

Occupational Therapists focus on Occupations…the clue was in the name, I know. Occupational Therapists believe that humans have an innate need to act - to engage in meaningful occupations (activities). The activities that you need to do (like eating, dressing, toileting) and the activities you want to do (like dancing, playing piano, gardening). To be able to engage with these activities you need skills. The list of skills you need to complete any given activity are vast! They will include cognitive, physical and emotional elements.

“Occupational Therapy is where science, creativity and compassion collide” Jessica Kensky

 

Let’s take the classic OT example of making a cup of tea! (Very OT and very British). Just think about all the skills you need to have to make a cup of tea. You need to feel motivated to make a cuppa in the first place, an awareness of risk of the boiling water, the sequencing to put the teabag in the cup and not the kettle, dynamic balance to stretch from the cupboard to get the cup, then to the drawer to get a teaspoon. Spatial awareness of where the cup is in relation to the kettle for pouring the water…. You get the idea… that humble cuppa is a complex activity.

Then the last piece of the puzzle – the Environment. Back to the cuppa – you could have all the skills you need to make that drink, but there is a huge hole in the middle of the kitchen floor, and the electric plug is dodgy – well then making that cuppa has just been made a whole lot more challenging (and potentially electrifying!).

Anyone else feel the need for a hot beverage now??

This is Occupational Therapy in a nutshell – we support people to identify what Occupations are important to them (their goals), what skills they need to do be able to do it, and what in their environment needs to change to support them to do it. This can be a complex process, and is why Occupational Therapy is a protected title and an integral part of the health and social care system.

How does this apply to mental health?

The easy answer is, in all the same ways! Occupational Therapists are the OG’s for Holistic Care. The condition/illness/impairment is not the main player. Different approaches are taken depending on what causes the difficulty, and there are a whole host of different specialities within Occupational Therapy to meet those needs – but whether you can’t get dressed because you have had a Stroke and you have paralysis down one side or because you are experiencing Depression and you can’t get out of bed – the outcome remains the same – your naked!

 Within Mental Health services, OT’s use a whole range of interventions and treatments – from looking at structure and routine, sleep hygiene, environmental changes to support needs, equipment, anxiety management, cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness, looking at effects of medication, strategies for managing hearing voices…. the list is endless. The important part is that it is unique to that person, to that situation, and to their personal goals.  

Like with our getting dressed example - it is more than the physical ability to put clothes on. It is about what type of clothes you want to wear, how those clothes make you feel, how they represent you, when in the day you want to get dressed, whether you are happy for someone to help you or not. This is Occupational Therapy - identifying the activity that is meaningful, the goal, the skills needed and how the environment can change to support it.

How does this work within LB Therapy?

I have been working within the health service, local government, education and private industry for almost 15 years now – and usually in that time, working with individuals when they are really quite unwell, and struggling physically, mentally or both! Alongside that, I was also listening to women in my life, women standing next to me at the school gates, women in my workplace, women in online forums – all saying the same things. They are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed, burnt-out and the mental overload was reaching whole new levels! From these two angles – my ‘why?’ for LB therapy was born!

I am passionate about OT and what the skill set an Occupational Therapist can offer. I know the interventions used on the hospital wards, in the clinics, in the schools, in the community teams, can help people way before they get through those clinic doors! OT can be used as prevention rather than cure.

Occupational Therapy – helping people to live, not exist

90% of the women I have listened to, outside of my professional role, don’t feel they are ‘unwell’ or would particularly want to go to a doctor or a therapist to talk about how they feel – but they do recognise their well-being is being affected, and some days, when there is a little break in the madness, they wonder how long they can hold it all together? How long before it is a problem that can’t be ignored? How many more plates can they spin before something is dropped?  This is why LB Therapy was created – to support you to take back control of your mental health and well-being – and live, not just exist.

 

Leave a comment below! What is your experience of Occupational Therapy? Are you an OT? Would love to hear from you!

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