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RiverView's Occupational Therapy Team Helps Patients Combat Mental Health Issues

Hospital news | Friday, February 5, 2021

Mental health is at the forefront more than ever in these days of living in a pandemic. RiverView Health's Occupational Therapy (OT) Team offers various services and techniques to help individuals conquer everyday issues to make life easier, leading to better mental health.

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Occupational therapy is provided from a client-centered, strength-based approach that focuses on identifying and implementing healthy habits and routines while supporting the reach for goals such as successful independent living, education, and employment. The American Occupational Therapy Association states: "In occupational therapy, treatment begins by asking the client not what is the matter with them, but what matters to them."

When working with children and adolescents at RiverView, the OT Team focuses on teaching patients to identify and utilize self-regulation strategies for patients to get back to participating in meaningful situations such as going to school, being with friends, and participating within the family system.

The focus with adults is often on enabling them to re-engage in meaningful occupations through a variety of skill sets such as skills development, establishing positive habits and routines, setting therapy goals, and using cognitive-behavioral techniques, and understanding underlying physiological influences.

One of the many tools RiverView offers is its multisensory (MSE) room, specifically designed to enable people to enjoy a wide range of experiences for therapy, learning, stimulation, relaxation, and fun. The concept is to create events focused on particular senses such as feel, vision, sound, smell, taste, and the more abstract sense of well-being.

"We utilize our MSE room to assist with our patients' anxiety or mental health needs," shared Tina Safranski, MOTR/L and Occupational Therapy coordinator. "We use a variety of calming techniques, including brushing, fidgets, swings, and therapeutic listening music. We really focus on individualized treatment approaches based on if it is more anxiety with work, school, or the home setting."

Understanding how these different aspects can interact with an individual's environment enables occupational therapy practitioners to provide a unique blend of supports and services to allow a person to carry out their chosen activities on their recovery journey.

Examples of occupational therapy interventions in mental health include:

  • Evaluating and adapting the environment at home, work, school, and other settings to promote an individual's optimal functioning
  • Providing educational programs and experiential learning to address assertiveness, self-awareness, interpersonal and social skills, stress management, and role development (e.g., parenting)
  • Working with clients to develop leisure or avocational interests and pursuits
  • Facilitating the development of skills needed for independent living such as using community resources, managing one's home, managing time, managing medication, and being safe at home and in the community
  • Providing training in activities of daily living (e.g., hygiene and grooming)
  • Consulting with employers regarding appropriate accommodations as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Conducting functional evaluations and ongoing monitoring for successful job placement
  • Providing guidance and consultation to persons in all employment settings, including supportive employment
  • Providing evaluation and treatment for sensory processing deficits

Safranski also recommends meditation apps and digital mental health tools like Headspace, 10% Happier, SilverCloud, and myStrength to help establish healthy habits and manage stress, anxiety, and depression.

Individuals of all ages who are diagnosed with a mental illness can benefit from occupational therapy. Furthermore, friends and family members can also benefit from these services to learn ways to deal with the stress of caregiving and how to balance their daily responsibilities to allow them to continue to lead productive and meaningful lives.

For information on Occupational Therapy services at RiverView Health, call 218.281.9463.

Tina Safranski, MOTR/L