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Occupational therapy: An age-old profession with a rich history

Posted on 09-30-2015 Posted in Mental Health, Mental Illness, Therapy - 0 Comments

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Occupational therapists work with people with physical or mental disabilities to make these patients’ lives as functional as possible. For a patient in a wheelchair, that may mean strategizing to enable them to cook for themselves. For those struggling with debilitating depression, therapists may draw up a schedule of activities to get patients out of the house and actively engaged in social events.

While working closely with patients to develop and meet goals seems logical, the practice has not always been accepted. In the 1700s and 1800s people with mental illness were referred to as “lunatics,” a socially isolated group that faced many forms of discrimination. In 1793 Phillipe Pinel in France and William Tuke in England were proponents of a much more humane kind of care involving daily activities for the mentally ill including music, literature, conversation and exercise outdoors, in other words “occupations” to provide patients with a more normal life.

In the early 1900s, a nurse named Susan Tracy was instrumental in bringing “occupation” to mentally ill patients. She noticed that arts and crafts relaxed patients with mental illness and helped them feel productive at the same time. Tracy began to specialize in the field and started training student nurses about the therapeutic benefits of activities as part of treatment and coined the term “occupational nurse” for those who trained successfully.

The advent of WWII called for therapists to treat the many people who were physically and mentally wounded during the war. During the 1960s, as medicine became more tailored to particular illnesses, so, too, modalities of therapy. Occupational therapy was developed to incorporate a set of specific goals, strategies and beliefs. Therapists worked with pediatric patients and the developmentally disabled to help them become more independent. The deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill created a greater need for occupational therapy services and, in 1965 under the amendments to Social Security, Medicare began to cover inpatient occupational services.

In 1975, The Education of the Handicapped Act was passed and occupational therapy was included in the schools as a “related service.” During the 1980s and 1990s, occupational therapy began to shift to concentrate on a person’s quality of life. Today, when illness physical or mental, injury or disability prevents a person from functioning, occupational therapy professionals intervene, helping people regain and maintain function and accommodating any deficit that person may be experiencing.

Sovereign Health of Florida places emphasis on brain wellness, cognitive health and participation in therapeutic activities such as equine therapy, art, exercise and music. We treat addictions, mental health disorders and behavioral problems. For more information, please call to speak with a member of our team.

Occupational therapy: The role of occupational therapy in community mental health

Written by Veronica McNamara, Sovereign Health Group writer

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The dual diagnosis program was what attracted me to Sovereign Health. My therapist was always open for discussion and the group sessions were very informative and educational.

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