Mental health occupational therapy

Etymology: (1913) From the ancient Greekἔργον, ergon (“work”) and θεραπεία, therapeía (“care, service”).

Our daily lives are constantly challenging us, whether in the private (family) or public (work) sphere. Sometimes, events such as an accident or overwork can affect our balance and our psychological health.

However, the causes of our imbalance are not always obvious and we do not need a specific event to experience difficulties.

An imbalance can lead to a loss of motivation, a drop in energy and commitment, a feeling of loneliness and a state of stress. This can be reflected at work or in our personal lives, and can result in isolation.

Mental health occupational therapy is designed to help people with mental health problems regain their well-being and routine.

What are the goals of mental health occupational therapy?

A mental health occupational therapist works with people who are not able to resume their normal activities after a mental health problem.

Occupational therapists work to help you return to normal functioning and to give you the tools to take care of your mental health.

The occupational therapist serves as a support person for the patient. Their goal is to help the patient find or regain their autonomy within society.

An occupational therapy intervention also helps to develop personal resources, such as self-esteem, a sense of self-worth and emotional management.

Conditions often treated by mental health occupational therapists in our CMI Clinics:

  • Adjustment disorder
  • Burnout
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Mood disorders

How does mental health occupational therapy work?

The role of the mental health occupational therapist is to identify which daily activities are disrupted by your mental health condition and to work with you to find solutions to bring your meaningful activities back into your routine.

The occupational therapist works in collaboration with you through discussions, teaching sessions and problem solving.

During the sessions, we may address the following topics:

  • Routines and lifestyle habits
  • Occupational balance
  • Stressors and stress management
  • Mental health risk factors
  • Professional identity
  • Motivation and energy level
  • And many others

When and why should you see an occupational therapist?

When it comes to mental health, it can be difficult to identify symptoms and early warning signs. If you notice changes in your mood, difficulty concentrating, problems sleeping or a loss of interest in your activities, it is important to take a break.

It is never too early or too late to see a mental health occupational therapist to take care of yourself.

A doctor’s prescription is not required to see a mental health occupational therapist, but do not hesitate to talk about your mental health issues with your health care professionals to get all the help you need.

What happens during a mental health occupational therapy assessment at CMI Clinics?

The first mental health occupational therapy session aims to create a relationship of trust and to find out how your daily life is affected by your illness.

It consists of an assessment of approximately 90 minutes, and some questionnaires may be administered to help identify your difficulties. Depending on the therapist, the assessment process may vary.

The process could go something like this. First, the therapist will ask you about your symptoms and the history of your illness.

Next, the occupational therapist will try to understand your functioning at home. This ranges from interpersonal relationships to how you sleep or how often you eat.

Finally, the last part of the assessment will be to understand your functioning at work. This will include understanding relationships with co-workers and your employer, your work tasks, obstacles you face, and your perception of your potential return to work.

Most of the time, the main activity that will be interrupted is work. This is why a good understanding of the patient’s job is essential.

At the end of this session, the occupational therapist will be able to tell you what topics will be discussed with you during the next sessions and what tthe intervention plan will look like.

What should you expect from an occupational therapy session at CMI Clinics?

An occupational therapy session lasts about 50 minutes. The treatment itself can extend from several weeks to several months. The number of sessions depend on the severity of the symptoms and the duration of the absence from work.

In general, about ten sessions are necessary to address the issues and to ensure long-term gains.

The treatment is adapted and customized over time and sessions. A mental health occupational therapy follow-up involves teaching as well as weekly goals to achieve.

When it comes to teaching, the idea is to understand how symptoms affect a person’s functioning and to identify how different strategies can protect a person’s mental health.

The occupational therapist can then set goals and give exercises to work on based on the client’s priorities. There is a gradual progression to bring the patient closer to his or her natural balance and functioning.

Techniques used in occupational therapy to cope with your mental illness

Some of the techniques and topics discussed at mental health occupational therapy sessions include:

  • Symptom management
  • Use of an occupational schedule
  • Principles of cognitive-behavioural theory
  • Behavioural reactivation
  • Graduated exposure in the clinic and in the community
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Teaching, counselling and problem solving
  • Return to work and other activity planning

Mental health and work: how and why do the Clinics deal with this duality?

One of the keys to personal fulfillment is a balance between the different spheres of our life and occupations. Work allows us to fulfill many human needs, whether they be financial or relational.

Work is one of the most important activities for adults, so the way someone feels valued and treated at their job will often have a direct impact on their self-confidence and self-esteem, in either a positive or negative way.

The issue of work is very personal to each person. Indeed, the impact of our work activity on our mental health depends on the meaning and significance we give it.

It is important that there be a match between our professional identity and the energy we invest in our work. Thus, when we invest a lot of time and energy in an activity, it must be rewarding and meaningful for us.

Work overload is often the result of an imbalance between the tasks we are expected to perform and the resources available to do them. Occupational therapists then work with their patients to find a better balance.

The therapist will work with the patient on energy and symptom management to help them restore their resources, while also providing tools to deal with the various stressors often present in a job.

The goal of the intervention in mental health occupational therapy is to ensure that the return to work takes place in a healthy, safe and sustainable manner.

Costs of mental health treatment

If you are covered by a public insurer (CNESST, SAAQ, IVAC), steps can be taken to have the treatment costs covered for you.

Group insurance plans may reimburse part of the cost of occupational therapy treatments. Arrangements can also be made by your occupational therapist with your compensation agent to facilitate payment.

The cost of an occupational therapy session is not covered by the RAMQ.

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