It’s Occupational Therapy month! We have OT’s working on many different teams CMHA Waterloo Wellington. OT’s help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities.
Following completion of a student practicum with the 1st Step program in January 2015, I became inspired to change my potential field of practice. During my practicum, I was both humbled and privileged to work with individuals at their most vulnerable as they searched for a sense of self and agency, while progressing to their goals of returning to work, school, and social relationships.
1. What is involved in your role?
As an occupational therapist on the 1st Step Early Psychosis Intervention team, I collaborate with individuals to support recovery through participation in meaningful occupations following a first episode of psychosis. In my role, I specifically support the occupational role functioning of our program participants including balancing participation in the areas of self-care, productivity, and leisure.
In addition, I work closely with other occupational therapists within CMHA to supervise students OTs directly, together with role-emerging placements to support the expansion of the profession within mental health programs. I further collaborate with student OTs on evidence-based practice projects in order to both support service development within CMHA and highlight aspects of the OT profession nationally e.g., the role of OT in responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
2. Why did you become involved in the mental health field?
Initially, I was interested in working as an occupational therapist in physical health e.g., outpatient stroke rehabilitation programs. Following completion of a student practicum with the 1st Step program in January 2015, I became inspired to change my potential field of practice. During my practicum, I was both humbled and privileged to work with individuals at their most vulnerable as they searched for a sense of self and agency, while progressing to their goals of returning to work, school, and social relationships. Since my practicum, I had the opportunity to work within several CMHA programs prior to returning to 1st Step in Fall 2018.
3. What motivated you to work as an OT in mental health?
As an OT in mental health, I find that each individual presents with their own unique areas of strengths and challenges to participation. Problem-solving skills and the use of creative approaches has allowed me to meet the challenges to participation in an adaptive and flexible way. Chipping away at challenges and barriers to participation until the progress made offers up new insight and understanding can prove to be ample motivation/reward for both the individual and myself.
4. How do you support people in your role?
I provide community-based support to assist individuals to re-engage in the community through identification of meaningful occupations that include self-care, productivity, and leisure. Following goal identification, I meet with program participants, family members, and 1st Step team members to collaborate and develop recovery action plans that support goal actualization. In addition to utilizing occupational-based assessments and practices, I use neurofunctional and cognitive testing to identify areas of strength and challenge to inform compensatory strategies that support performance in meaningful occupations e.g., return to work and school. Other areas of support that are addressed using an occupational therapy lens include driving fitness, home and community safety, social skills, leisure engagement and exploration, and establishing and maintaining daily routines.
5. What are you proud of during your time in your role?
I take great pride in being part of a hardworking team that values evidence-based practice and provides person-centred care to the youth within our communities. The 1st Step team has experienced several changes over the past year and despite these changes, has continued to maintain a high level of advocacy and quality care in support of the mental health needs of those within the program. I am proud to have worked on an interagency (CMHA WW, KidsAbility, and Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council) working group to plan and bring internationally renowned occupational therapist Kim Barthel to the Waterloo-Wellington region. During Mental Heath Week earlier this year, Kim was able to share her passion for mental health, neurobiology, and trauma informed practice with staff, families, and the community. Finally, I was proud to work closely with CMHA OTs to complete and present the outcomes of a project related to the implementation of a neurofunctional assessment at CMHA at the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) national conference.
If you are in crisis or wish to discuss whether CMHA has the right service for you, call Here 24/7: 1-844-437-3247 (HERE 247).
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