Healthy Living

Occupational Therapy and Mental Health

Occupational Therapy and Mental Health

Mental disabilities require a radically different approach from physical disabilities. For a fact, they are serious and can harm the individual’s social and mental development, but more importantly, most of them cannot be cured.

Which mental health problems are addressed by occupational therapy

There are various forms of mental health disorders and occupational therapy (OT) has become a powerful tool in their management. Some of the most common disorders are:

Learning disabilities

Once a child is old enough to go to school, the parents and teachers may notice that the child is having more difficulty compared to their peers. There are some learning disabilities which are direct, like dyslexia which makes it hard for the person to read, but then there are other disorders which may interfere with the child’s education such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Neither of these can be cured. However, through OT it is possible to help the child catch up with their peers gradually.

Psychotic disorders

These are more serious mental health disorders that can interfere with a person’s personal and professional life. Examples are schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. Although they can be managed through medication, OT can help the individual live a more fulfilling life.

Trauma and stress-related disorders

Soldiers returning home from the battlefield often experience PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) which hinders them from resuming life as usual. Apart from soldiers, the same can happen to anyone due to certain experiences with the same result. Another form of stress disorder is acute stress disorder which could incapacitate a person.


This can be a very serious condition which could cause difficulties in other areas of life. Through OT, the occupational therapist will be able to determine the cause of the depression and work to get their patient out of the depressive state.

How does occupational therapy help manage mental health disorders?

Once a person is enrolled into an OT program for a mental disorder, the occupational therapist will have to devise specific strategies that are tailored to meet the needs of the patient. Different mental disorders have varying causative factors and the sufferers require different approaches in order to recover. Therefore there is no one-size-fits-all strategy, but there are some common skills that could be applied to manage mental health disorders.

Developing a regular and consistent schedule

Mental health disorders are often triggered by changes in the environment of the patient. To undercut these changes, the occupational therapist should help the patient develop a consistent schedule which does not expose them to any surprise to avoid possible triggers.

Education and employment

Apart from undergoing OT, the individual will still require a professional life. Hence the occupational therapist will guide them through their education and ensure they land in a career they are passionate about.

Development of social skills

A man is a social creature. Therefore, social interaction is essential regardless of the mental health. This is why every OT program will try to enhance the patient’s social skills and help them develop healthy relationships with friends and family.


Some mental health disorders may often cause the individual to not take their prescribed medication. But through OT, various strategies can be devised to ensure the medication is adhered to.