Occupational Therapists (OT) are very important fixtures in the overall wellness machine. When we aren’t able to go about our daily routine, due to injury, illness or old age, our quality of life can suffer in immense ways. In general, when we think of occupational therapists, their relationship with improving the physical well-being of their patients is probably the first thing that comes to mind. However, they also play a vital role in improving the mental health of many people.
Read on for some insight into how the work that OTs do is greatly beneficial in the mental health space.
Occupational Therapists Help Manage Symptoms of Mental Health Disorders
Some mental health issues will never completely go away, but they can be managed effectively. Mental health occupational therapy is a common route for handling many of the symptoms of these kinds of issues. For example, a patient suffering from schizophrenic delusions may need help with sensory therapy; a patient with major depressive disorder could benefit from learning different, easier methods of basic home self-care.
OTs can also help to provide patients, and those around them, with an understanding of situational awareness, which can go a long way in ensuring that the patient suffering is safe.
Mental health OT Brittany Ferri explains: “If a therapist who has good situational awareness notices a patient is beginning to get agitated, they may use their verbal interpersonal skills to diffuse the situation before it worsens. This recognition is invaluable and can go a long way in preventing verbal altercations from potentially escalating to the point of physical violence.”
They Aid in Trauma and Mental Health Recovery
Similar to how they help patients recover from physical trauma, occupational therapists also play a role in helping patients overcome mental trauma, so that they can live their lives to their fullest potential.
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), “OT practitioners work collaboratively with people in a manner that helps to foster hope, motivation, and empowerment, as well as system change. Educated in the scientific understanding of neurophysiology, psychosocial development, activity and environmental analysis, and group dynamics, OT practitioners work to empower each individual to fully participate and be successful and satisfied in his or her self-selected occupations.” Recovering from trauma such as abuse or addiction rarely follows a simple path, so having a professional on your side can be very comforting.
They Allow Us to Do What Makes Us Happy
Remaining physically independent is directly linked with being mentally stable, and occupational therapy can empower patients to achieve this. In situations where a patient isn’t currently suffering from a mental illness, it is often the case that not being able to participate in activities that we enjoy can lead to feelings of depression and hopelessness. Providing exercises and resources that may allow their patients to do the things that they enjoy, occupational therapists play a vital role in improving and retaining their quality of life.
Whether it means adapting the way we perform actions or tasks, or changing them to something completely different, occupational therapists have a deep understanding of both how illness and injury can affect an individual’s participation in daily life, as well as the side effects that accompany that inability to participate.
Even when injury or illness isn’t a factor, certain life transitions such as going to school far away from home can be eased by the work that OTs do. They employ a ‘strengths-based, hands-on, practical approach to helping [students] manage’ their symptoms. Overall, by restoring our ability to do the things that make us happy, or even just the things that we need to be able to do to function, OTs improve our mental health.
Are you looking for a great position in occupational therapy? Rehabilitative therapy is one of our specialties, along with advanced practice, healthcare management, pharmacy, medical imaging and lab science. Reach out to Radius to see how we can help you find your next great OT position.