When the term “therapy” is used, people may think of psychotherapy, physical therapy, animal assisted therapy, behavioral therapy, art therapy or any of the myriad therapies available. A lesser-known treatment that may be overlooked is occupational therapy, a form of treatment that turns everyday activities, such as cooking or socializing, into a modality of physical and mental therapy.
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, the primary goal of occupational therapy is to support and enable each person’s “health and participation in life through engagement in occupation.”
In this case, the term occupation does not refer to employment, but the engagement in meaningful and productive habits. The motto of professional occupational therapists (OTs) is “living life to its fullest.” In order to ensure a patient makes the achieves efficient treatment during these activities, OTs take his or her needs, strengths, abilities and interests into consideration along with his or her particular physical, social and cultural surroundings.
While occupational therapy is commonly used during recovery from illnesses, such as stroke or injury, it originated as a way to treat mental illness. According to research provided by the Disability History Museum, in France during the 18th century, Phillipe Pinel founded what he referred to as “traitement moral” at the Bicetre Hospital in Paris. Rather than treating the mentally ill in a harsh manner, as was common practice for that time, Pinel encouraged treatment using meaningful pastimes, walks, and conversation. In 1841, American mental health advocate Dorothea Dix insisted that hospitals for the “insane” be airy and spacious with outdoor gardens.
The first occupational therapy model, known as “Habit Training” began at Johns Hopkins University in the early 20th century. Here, occupations such as weaving, art and bookbinding were introduced to help patients learn new skills, increase productivity and receive the therapeutic advantage of a balanced daily schedule.
In the mental health field, OTs they primarily take up residency in hospitals, community-based mental health care facilities and outpatient private practices. When assessing a person with a mental health condition, an OT accounts for a person’s daily routine and how that person is able to manage each component of his or her schedule. For example, when treating a person diagnosed with schizophrenia, the therapist interviews and observes the person to determine his or her ability to live alone and safely function. The information is utilized to provide support and perhaps environmental modifications to promote independent living.
Monica Jackman, MHS, OTR/L, CAPS, notes that OTs typically provide the following for patients with mental illness:
Working with both the physically and mentally ill, OTs are a vital link in the chain of care, providing patients with the resources to allow them to live lives which are as normal as possible. They provide a unique service to patients as part of the recovery team of professionals.
Sovereign Health Florida treats addictions, mental health disorders and behavioral problems. We emphasize to our clients the importance of daily living skills and the importance of good social contacts to maintain sobriety and benefit from a balanced life. If you have questions, please call to speak with a member of our team.
Written by Veronica McNamara, Sovereign Health Group writer
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