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

Posted on 10-05-2015 Posted in Mental Health, Occupational Therapy - 0 Comments


Occupational therapists don’t just treat patients in a home or hospital setting; they are also active in community mental health centers, homeless and women’s shelters, correctional facilities, senior centers, after-school programs and in people’s homes. The advent of the 1963 Community Mental Health Act allowed occupational therapists and their trained assistants to work in a wide variety of locations, helping patients lead independent, functional lives.

Depending upon a patient’s abilities, occupational therapists may assist those suffering from mental or physical disability find full- or part-time employment, attend school and live as independently as possible while participating in meaningful and rewarding activities. Occupational therapists examine and facilitate what each individual requires to accomplish his or her goals.

The term “occupational” refers to a patient’s everyday life activities, or occupations. As “everyday life therapists,” occupational therapy practitioners are challenged to discover the unique needs of each patient. Occupational therapists are educated to provide services supporting mental and physical health, wellness, rehabilitation, habitation and recovery.

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, the typical occupational therapy training program includes at least one clinical field work experience concentrating on psychosocial issues. Responsibilities of these therapists include:

  • “Evaluating and adapting a patient’s environment at home, work or school.
  • Providing programs for learning, assertiveness, social skills, parenting and stress management.
  • Developing leisure skills or interests.
  • Independent living skills, managing time, medication and safety skills.
  • Training in hygiene and grooming if necessary.
  • Evaluating and monitoring for job placement.

In addition to benefiting patients, occupational therapy can teach a patient’s friends and family members to deal with care-giving stress and balance their own lives. Occupational therapists reduce the stigma of mental illness by providing opportunities for patients and promoting advocacy in the community. For patients in lower socioeconomic classes, occupational therapists collaborate with employers, educators and other agencies to help these patients achieve success in the workforce. If long-term housing is a problem, occupational therapists can find supported housing for patients, providing lessons on maintaining a home.

Mental illness is the leading cause of disability in the world and can severely hinder the ability to function in society. Occupational therapy is essential to help people with mental illness learn the skills to live a full and healthy life.

For those in need of help, Sovereign Health of Florida provides well-rounded treatment for those struggling with mental health disorders and behavioral issues. We work to accommodate people of all backgrounds, addressing a myriad of mental health problems and, if present, substance addictions. If you or a loved one has questions or need information, please call to speak with a member of our team.

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Written by Veronica McNamara, Sovereign Health Group writer

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