Editor’s Note: Did you know that Occupational Therapy (OT) plays a role in supporting mental health? We had a chat with occupational therapist Evelyn C. to gain a better understanding of its role in mental wellness. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us Evelyn! Indeed, taking charge of our mental wellness, and enjoying good quality of life by being occupied with meaningful activity is something we can all strive towards as the new year unfolds.
1. What do you do daily as an Occupational Therapist (OT), and for how long have you been practising?
I have been an Occupational Therapist for just slightly over a year in a community-based day rehabilitation centre for adults. I work with a wide range of people, typically with older adults who may have had a stroke, a fracture, or a fall. I also work with people with mental health conditions such as dementia.
2. What made you decide on pursuing OT as a career?
I’ve always enjoyed working with people, and have an interest in human sciences (i.e. sociology, psychology), as well as the “hard” sciences (i.e. biology, physics). OT was a good marriage between these two groups of sciences. Plus I get to work with individuals from all walks of life and of different ages – from the cradle to the grave, quite literally!
3. What is the role of OT within a mental healthcare setting?
When it comes to mental health care, key objectives centre around gaining independence and day-to-day functioning. Hence our work involves encouraging integration through daily living activities that are purposeful and meaningful to the individual. Some areas of occupational therapy cover activities related to leisure, work, and self-care.
4. What is/are the most common misconception(s) of OT in Singapore?
That we deal with occupations (jobs) or help people to get jobs! Haha!
5. Are there any basic OT exercises that an individual can practice on their own, and how can OT boost mental wellness?
The word “occupation” actually refers to purposeful and meaningful daily activity, which is a means towards mental wellness. It is also a channel through which our clients regain their sense of self and esteem through restoring their abilities in doing something they enjoy.
There isn’t really an exercise per se, but what the individual can do is to explore what they enjoy doing most, what brings meaning to them, etc. This brings about social and personal engagement on various levels – interpersonal, cognitive, emotional and physical.
Keeping oneself occupied with meaningful activities can greatly aid in mental health recovery.
You can always consult an OT who will work with you in identifying these activities, breaking down the process of doing them, and coming up with strategies to sustain them, for example.
6. Could you share an anecdote on how OT has helped someone with mental health challenges?
When I was on a student placement with IMH, I worked with a boy, X, who struggled with anger management. During therapy, we explored his interests and created strategies that revolved around those interests as a means of mitigating his angry outbursts.
One of his interests, we discovered, was cooking. Through that, he learnt to work with others and even organised the groups during cooking sessions. With occupational therapy and psychological intervention, he was able to go on home leave successfully with zero anger outbursts and was able to relate well with his family members.
I didn’t managed to follow up with him after my placement, but I’m hoping that he has returned to school, relating well with his peers and family, and enjoying things that he likes to do, like cooking!
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us Evelyn! Indeed, taking charge of our mental wellness, and enjoying good quality of life by being occupied with meaningful activity is something we can all strive towards as the new year unfolds.
The Singapore Association for Occupational Therapy (SAOT) celebrates its 10th birthday since it’s inception on 11 January 2006. To know more about occupational therapy, please visit their website at http://www.saot.org.sg/about-ot