Occupational therapists in mental health work with people with all types of mental distress. They value recovery and social inclusion, and emphasise the relationship between occupation, mental health and wellbeing. People have an intrinsic drive to be active that is expressed through activities that form the fabric of their everyday lives. Occupations include everything that people do in everyday life and are central to the existence of individuals, groups and communities.
In the eyes of the world, people are largely what they do through the roles that they adopt in life. Maintaining an acceptable and personally satisfying routine of activities that have meaning and value for the individual creates a sense of purpose and direction to life. Conversely, any disruption to the individual’s daily routines caused by illness or disability can lead to dissatisfaction, disorientation and distress. Occupation is therefore essential for good mental health and well-being.
Occupational therapists understand mental health problems from a social model of disability and recognise the wider social issues that contribute to mental distress including poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, the hidden legacy of sexual, emotional and physical abuse, the impact of war, torture, displacement and other stressful life events.
Occupational therapists also recognise that many service users feel that they are experiencing ‘sane’ reactions to a sometimes hostile, uncaring and ‘insane’ society. With professional roots in social justice, occupational therapists believe that mental health problems should not just be formulated around the individual but should also be tackled at a societal, economic and political level.
Occupational therapists draw on their values and beliefs about empowerment, choice, independence and the importance of purposeful activity. Many of these values are shared with service users and other members of the multi-disciplinary team.
It is unusual to find occupational therapists in private heathcare but we at Phoenix feel they are an important part of the team. Working together, all team members contribute to understanding a service user’s strengths, difficulties, physical, social and psychological health.
Occupational therapists bring a unique and expert view of the service user’s full range of actions and activities.They work with service users and carers to develop and maintain a personally satisfying routine of everyday activities that creates a sense of purpose and direction to life. They will typically look at service users’ self-care, leisure and work activities and the individual’s hopes and aspirations.
Their main focus is to work out how a person’s daily activities and roles may have been contributing to their illness and how the right activity at the right level can be part of the person‘s social inclusion and recovery. Occupational therapists will offer a range of therapeutic activities such as sports and creative arts. They may offer psycho-educational groups such anxiety management and back to work groups.
They will also look at the environment around the person to see if they can make it as supportive as possible for the person. If someone has been in hospital, an occupational therapist may take the person on a trial trip home called a home visit. Occupational therapists also make recommendations about the type of accommodation a person may need to live in and packages of support.