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What do mental health OTs do?

In healthcare, Occupational Therapy is commonly misunderstood, so trust us when we say it is even less understood in a mental health setting. However it is important to be informed and understand the difference between physical and mental health OT roles and how each can provide the care for you or a loved one.

Occupational therapy generally

The word “occupation” is used to describe all the everyday things we do in our life roles as well as the things we do to be who we are (hint: it does not mean employment!). Occupational Therapists work with people who experience health conditions, injuries or disabilities and support them to participate in everyday occupations such as:

– “self-care” activities including showering, dressing, preparing food;

– “productive” activities like education, work, volunteering; and;

-“leisure/social” activities, such as being part of a group, participating in a hobby, or being part of a friendship group.

Occupational therapy in mental health 

OTs working in a mental health setting work collaboratively with clients to help them achieve their goals alongside or in spite of a mental illness. Mental health diagnoses often impact mood or our thinking skills, which can often have important implications for our “functioning” and overall quality of life. Therefore, OTs consider what’s important to each individual (for example, living independently, employment, socialising) and support people to reduce barriers to promote their participation, wellbeing and quality of life.

Quick example

As a rough example, in a physical setting you may find OTs recommend equipment and home modifications to support a client’s function in their own home. Mental health OTs may complete functional cognition assessments and provide cognitive, sensory, or environmental strategies to support a client in their home.

Why you need to know

Now more than ever, it’s important to understand what Occupational Therapists do, thanks to the introduction of the NDIS. The NDIS places a lot of importance on understanding the “functional” impact of a participant’s disability – which makes perfect sense to us as OTs! However, it sometimes leaves people confused. Participants of the NDIS will be familiar with the requests for “functional assessments”; in this instance, it is an OT you need to see.

We can help

The “services” page on our website provides further information about the specific interventions we offer as mental health OTs at Be Well Occupational Therapy. However, feel free to get in touch or leave a comment if you would like more clarification around the role of OTs in mental health settings and how we can support clients to reach their goals.

Heather Moore

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