What is the Role of an Occupational Therapist in a Mental Health Setting?

An Occupational Therapist working in mental health may work in several areas. These setting will vary and may include working with people across the lifespan of their engagement with mental health services. Some of these areas include:

  • Maternal mental health
    • During pregnancy, childbirth, and post-partum.
  • Children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS)
    • For the first 18 years of a child’s life – this may include both inpatient and community-based work.
  • Adult mental health services
    • This includes everyone from the age of 18+. This may include work in a forensic setting, acute/subacute, community or a mixture of these.
  • Older persons
    • This work may be done with people who are experiencing mental health difficulties, people with dementia or other memory and cognitive issues while working with families and carers.

Occupational Therapists work with people and their families to increase / maintain engagement in meaningful activities to help promote mental wellbeing. An OT will conduct an assessment with the person and their family / carer if relevant. Following on from the assessment,  the OT will jointly develop a range of goals with the person.

Depending on the area and goals of the person, this can include a wide range of activities. Some of these activities may include – social engagement, arts/crafts, schooling, sports, memory tasks, puzzles, reading, gardening, yoga, meditation and sensory experiences.

An occupational therapist may conduct a variety of assessments and use a variety of models and frames of reference to assist the person to become more self-empowered.

Throughout the process an OT may work with the person on their own or as part of a multi-disciplinary team. Some other professionals may include social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, speech and language therapist, nurses, art therapist and play therapist.

If you or someone you know is looking for more details on the work an OT can do in this area – contact your local OT who works in this area to discuss.