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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Murray

OT versus Counselling for my Mental Health??

"What does an Occupational Therapist (OT) even do??"

A question an OT is very familiar with! For me, Occupational Therapy intervention is invaluable to a person’s well-being but the reality is not many people in Ireland know what OT’s do and what OT services are available to them.

What is Mental Health OT?

OT is a healthcare profession concerned with helping people to “engage as independently as possible in the activities (occupations) which enhance their health and wellbeing”’ (BAOT).

OTs work with a diverse population in a range of different settings. For example, most of you may have heard about OT’s supporting older adults at home or children with ASD.

However Mental Health specific OT is different. We can support you if your mental health interferes with your ability to do the activities necessary for living your life. What I mean by this is, if for example, social anxiety prevents you from meeting friends or going to work or perhaps your experience of depression stops you from getting to your exercise class or your GP appointment. This is when an OT can help. We can intervene to assess what difficulties you may be having with your routine and support you to manage the challenges of mental ill health while living a meaningful life. In simple terms, we help you to DO what you need and want to do.

How is OT different from seeing a Counsellor or a psychologist?

  1. We can meet you wherever you need us to meet you e.g. at work, at home, at the local café, in the library and so on. This is real life and by engaging in therapy in a real life scenario you have the opportunity to actively work on your goals in a safe way. For example, let’s imagine that your goal is to be able to meet a friend for a coffee. Currently your experience of social anxiety prevents you from doing so. Firstly, your OT may meet you at home over several sessions to help you to learn about anxiety (your triggers, warning signs, coping style). You might then practice some anxiety management strategies preparing you for leaving your home. Next session you might meet together outside your home, and so on, until eventually supporting you to meet that friend in the local coffee shop. Your goals will drive where and when we meet.

  2. Like a counsellor, psychotherapist or psychologist, we also help you to engage in “talk therapy” however this isn’t the main focus of our sessions. Clinical interventions are incredibly valuable for lots of people, but not for everyone. OT’s work in collaboration with other healthcare professionals so that a person’s entire needs are being met. Sometimes it’s often not enough to engage in talk therapy without knowing how to live your life again.

Mental Health OT’s work as part of the Community Mental Health Teams in the HSE and in some NGO’s around Ireland.

Anchor Therapy provides evidence based Occupational Therapy support. Drop us a message if you'd like to learn more about how we can help!


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