Apr 11 / Niccole Rowe, BA, COTA/L, Aspire OT Founding Partner, Coach

Mental Health Tools are Important for OT practitioners too

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I think there may not be a time where OT practitioners need support for their own mental health more than now.   The last two years have left so many folks feeling tapped out mentally, physically, and emotionally. There are new demands both at home and at work. I see conversations on social media daily about feelings of being burned out and wanting to switch careers.

For me, I found a refreshing and inspiring perspective when I met Stephen Nawotniak, OTR/L, NYCPS for the first time.  Stephen was warm and open especially talking about his diagnosis of bipolar disorder in 2020 and his journey of learning how to live with his condition. What struck me the most was how Stephen has a terrific talent for speaking about mental health and treatments in a very understandable way. I have always loved the psychological part of occupational therapy, but I must admit it can be harder to discuss in a way that is easily understandable and easy to integrate into daily life. I am always working to improve my treatment approaches for addressing mental health in all of the clients that I work with so Stephen's discussion and ideas were exciting to me.

Stephen was able to discuss the abstract mental health concepts and treatment techniques in a way that seemed like we were chatting about how to create a simple meal. He gave credence to the complexities, but distilled the ideas down with practicality. Kim and I were thrilled that Stephen joined our team and will be sharing his knowledge through his course OT and Mental Health: Applying the Practice Framework From a Lived Experience.   I found the course to be full of practical information for the clients that I work with in acute care, but I also found much of what he talked about could be applied to my own life and as an occupational therapy assistant. Like many other OT practitioners, I often am willing to work hard to improve my practice and to serve others. This often has me leaving myself as the last on the list for improvement or care! This course inspired me to consider some small changes that might make a difference in improving my own mental health.  

One of the concepts that Stephen discusses is considering that fulfillment may be more attainable in daily life than happiness. I have always found happiness to be an elusive creature. I can surely be happy in moments, but having that as an objective for life seems  hard to quantify or to work towards. While I had thought about happiness being problematic before, the thought to look at fulfillment instead was something I had never considered. The idea gave me pause at the time I heard it, but it was later that I really saw how it could be applied in daily life.

I have navigated depression at different times since the birth of my son 14 years ago when I was diagnosed shortly after with post-partum depression. I am very grateful that at the time medication and therapy provided perspective and help so I could function. I have tools I continue to manage with during times that I am experiencing depressive symptoms. Those days I find it seems to take a lot of energy to navigate the day and try to keep the self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and feelings of inadequacy from shouting at me all day.  

After Stephen's course, I was having a day that felt like a struggle. The concept of fulfillment versus happiness came into my mind. I sometimes in the past would ask myself "How could I be happier today?" The answer always seemed elusive to me.  So instead that day, I changed it to "What can I do today to be fulfilled?" Now that was a question that seemed much easier to answer! I could stop and visualize  laying in the bed that evening and feeling satisfied and fulfilled about the day. I was then able to identify several tasks that were meaningful to me and might lead me to achieving my visualization at the end of the day. I then prioritized those tasks in my day. The technique helped me apply some self-management to my mood and tasks that day with positive results. I was so grateful to have a different lens to filter my day through!  

This seems like a tool that easily translates into being helpful for our clients too! Not only that, I even wonder how often do we as OT practitioners focus on trying to be happy in a job versus what about our job makes us feel fulfilled. Maybe this small shift in perspective would be as helpful for our clients and for other OT practitioners as it was for me!

Occupational Therapy CEs for Mental Health

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Coaching, JUST for OT Practitioners Interested in
Implementing Psychosocial Interventions into Everyday Practice

Are you an occupational therapist, occupational therapy assistant or student who isn't sure how to address the psychosocial needs of your clients in your non-mental health setting? 
Just for OT Coaching is here to help you.  Let Kim and Niccole share their experiences in implementing psychosocial assessment and treatment into non-mental health settings to help you be successful! 

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