In every Occupational Therapy school, one of the first aspects of curriculum is to learn how to explain the role of an OT. This is because, back around the turn of the century, someone tragically misnamed this profession causing nearly everyone to instantly have a misperception of what we do based on the word “occupation.” A more self-explanatory title would be “Functional Therapist.”
While supporting people with returning to work can be part of what we do, OT’s define occupation as ANYTHING YOU DO IN LIFE. Our cue to enter is often when an individual has had a sudden loss of functioning due to injury, illness or age. Occupation can fall under the categories of self-care, productivity and leisure. We assess people’s physical, mental and social functioning. OT’s are the health care team champions of understanding and interpreting cognition, while physiotherapists work mainly with the physical body. While we work alongside physios and our jobs can look virtually the same in certain settings (ie. Acute care, home care), our training is vastly different. Physios are trained like doctors, to understand the problem and learn how to fix it. OT’s are trained much more broadly, to engage with the individual and discover what is meaningful to them, and use creative problem solving to work holistically to hopefully help this person return to the life that they desire. We work across a broad range of health disciplines including acute care, mental health, substance use, neuro rehab, chronic pain, home care services, auto insurance, return to work, even disaster relief.
I am the first mental health Occupational Therapist working in the music industry. I have a B.Mus.Ed.Comp (Bachelor of Music in Education and Composition) as my undergrad and currently perform as a DJ, occasionally adding pole fitness to the mix. I have the capacity to support artists when they are struggling with their mental and/or physical health. I can assess their current level of functioning and support with recommendations as well as interventions that are matched to the individual and what is meaningful to them. This may include goal setting, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, yoga, meditation, journaling, and care planning to build the artists’ health care team that will best support them in their return to wellness. I can also support the artists’ team in understanding the needs of their artist from a mental health perspective and inform decisions around tour planning to incorporate wellness into touring. I have a deep understanding of all of the major mental health conditions and I also know the importance of walking your talk. I take impeccable care of myself, meditate daily, eat a very healthy diet, exercise 5-10 hours/week and incorporate many holistic principles into how I live. I co-own a yoga studio and have been guiding people on their own spiritual journeys for 20 years.
My acute care training immediately following my Masters degree was excellent general training, although the pace was punishing and the hospital culture was not for me. I learned how to administer adaptive aids and bracing, how to assess swallowing issues and prescribe textured diets, specialized mattress prescriptions for people with bed sores, taught people who had endured strokes how to get dressed with a long handled reacher, prescribed wheelchairs and other equipment, made hand splints, supported people with pre and post op elective joint replacements, assessed cognition and assessed and educated many patients on the use of adaptive aids for Activities of Daily Living so that they could safely return home.
Since 2014 I made the rewarding shift to working in mental health, first on the inpatient unit at our local hospital, and then in the community. I assess how people’s minds are interpreting the environment and provide both rehabilitative and compensatory strategies to support them in achieving their goals. I support clients with goal setting and help to remove barriers that they may be experiencing. I teach yoga and mindfulness to people with severe and persistent mental illness, and in some cases I also to 1-on-1 Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I advocate for clients who are marginalized and relegated to the fringes of society, and help support them by creating community and hopefully connection in a population that has a strong tendency to isolate. I also oversee a vocational rehab program that teaches people with schizophrenia, bipolar and substance use to cook and hopefully obtain meaningful employment once they complete the program. I also witness many heart wrenching, tragic stories in this line of work. I truly enjoy engaging with clients and working with this sensitive population.