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OT Through An Intern's Eyes

Hi, I’m Kelsie,

I’m Kaylin’s occupational therapy level 2 fieldwork student, which is basically a fancy way of saying her intern. I have finished all of my schooling and am set to graduate this December- woohoo! Mental health is my passion, and I am so lucky to have Kaylin to learn from. Today I’m going to tell you a little bit about what mental health in OT is. In Dakota’s previous post he touched on it but today I want to dive a little deeper with you all!

So first let me tell you a little bit about myself and why I chose to go into occupational therapy. I’m originally from Illinois and went to undergraduate school there as well. For the first half of my college education, I planned to be a psychotherapist—just like Dakota is! But I ended up switching up my plan to go to graduate school for occupational therapy once I realized I could still explore my mental health passion as an occupational therapist.

What I love about occupational therapy is that is it looks at the whole person. We address all aspects of your life such as your physical health, emotional well-being, cognitive status, social life, financial state, environmental barriers, and spiritual wellness. We take all of those things into consideration when working with you and look at how a deficit in one area can impact the other areas of your life.

Occupational therapy is all about looking at your occupations! I know what you’re probably thinking, why do they want to look at my job? Well, when occupational therapists are looking at your occupations, they actually mean the activities you do day to day that give your life meaning! This can range from self-care activities, going to school, taking care of your child or pet, managing your household and so on.

So how does this fit in to mental health? When experiencing depression, anxiety, trauma or mood disorders it can be really hard to take care of yourself. Things like showering, brushing your hair or teeth, making proper meals, and getting the appropriate amount of sleep can suddenly seem like a heavy burden. As occupational therapists, we focus on addressing and improving the barriers to self-care. We want to help you to get back to engaging in your daily routines.

Do you find that you are always running late? Do you have difficulty paying attention and often miss the things being said to you? Do you never seem to plan the right amount of time to complete tasks and feel like you have a never-ending to-do list? This could be an indication that your executive functioning skills are being impacted by your mental health or other diagnosis such as ADHD or autism. Executive functioning skills are the skills that help you plan, organize and initiate tasks. They are also important for impulse control and remembering information. Occupational therapists can help to develop and strengthen executive functioning skills at all stages of life by breaking down the steps to tasks and providing supports such as visuals or checklists. We want to diminish any overwhelmed feelings you may have while supporting you to feel capable and independent in your daily life!

Every person has a sensory system that is unique to themselves. As occupational therapists we help you to understand your body’s sensory needs and how to apply techniques to aid in regulating your sensory system. Is your child coming home from school and experiencing emotional outbursts? Do you find yourself overwhelmed after work unable to do anything else for the rest of the day? These are just a couple of examples for why sensory integration therapy can be useful. Sensory strategies also promote emotion regulation! When our body is dysregulated, we can experience more emotional turbulence so regulating our sensory system can help to prevent emotional outbursts or fatiguing.

Along with sensory strategies, occupational therapists can help you to gain coping skills and utilize stress reduction techniques. From movement strategies such as yoga or exercise, mindfulness tools such as guided imagery and mediation, or even more subtle ways such as deep breathing techniques. Occupational therapists help you to explore and find the best fitting tools to use when faced with challenging moments. We know you can’t always control when your mood may fluctuate or when a trigger occurs so filling your toolbox up with strategies to utilize within different environments is essential.

As humans, we deal with the relationships around us every day. Whether you are a child living with your parents or an adult navigating friendships and romantic partnerships. The relationships surrounding you can greatly impact your day-to-day life. It is no secret that experiencing challenges within oneself can cause strain on relationships. As occupational therapists we can address challenges within your relationships or environments through conflict resolution, anger management strategies, and interpersonal dynamics.

Along with helping to resolve challenges we strive to build appropriate behavior. Is your child frequently getting in trouble at school and not responding to strategies you’ve tried? Does your child have difficulty accepting “NO”? Occupational therapists strive to promote positive behaviors for your child across all environments through combined individualized therapy and parent education.

Occupational therapists can provide social skills training to help you, or your child feel fulfilled socially. Do you find that you avoid eye contact, blurt things out without thinking, or struggle to make friends? Does your child have difficulty sharing toys or playing with others? We can provide social skills training to help you to feel fulfilled within your social life.

One of my favorite mottos in life is “everything in moderation”. As occupational therapists we believe that noticing and taking care of all aspects of your life is vital to your well-being. Only putting forth energy and care towards one aspect while neglecting all the others will leave you unbalanced. We strive to help you live a balanced life and increase your overall well-being. We want you to feel fulfilled in all areas of your life.

Occupational therapists provide a unique and valuable approach to mental health treatment. If your life, or your child’s, is not in balance, think about consulting with an occupational therapist for a plan to help it move forward in all areas.

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