How Occupational Therapists are changing lives in Sussex

Occupational Therapists (OTs) are shouting loud and proud about their profession this week as part of Occupational Therapy (OT) Week 2018.  

Occupational therapy provides support to people whose health prevents them doing the activities that matter to them. Occupational therapists promote recovery through activity; this could be something really active or something small and every day. It’s about helping people be part of their community and feel confident to access it.

OTs at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health and learning disability services Sussex, are encouraging people to think about the activities that benefit them, the things they can do to help them manage their stress or anxiety and the things they can do that they really enjoy to help them in their recovery.

Gemma Dorer, Lead OT for West Sussex explains “We know that when caring for a patient who is experiencing difficulties with their mental health it is vital to look at them as a whole person and not just their illness or condition. OTs bring a unique perspective to healthcare and we can assess and help them find creative solutions to work alongside their medical treatment.”

As part of the annual awareness week the Royal College of Occupational Therapy is calling on therapists to make pledges to secure the future of the profession and for anyone who has worked with an Occupational Therapist as part of their recovery to share their experience.

Nicola Burke, an OT working in East Sussex, has been working with a woman who has been supported by Occupational Therapists in a mental health setting since the death of her husband. Nicola explains: “The adjustment for this lady has been considerable, not only the loss of her husband but she has also had to adjust to taking on new roles that he had previously assumed.

“As an OT I can address both the physical and mental health aspects to aid someone’s recovery and functional ability and I enjoy this variety. My work with this lady has been more around enabling her to adjust and take on new roles and develop goals in a very client centred way.  I consider it a privilege for someone to ‘open up and share’ their life history and to part of their recovery process.”

The patient who has benefitted from this OT support knew nothing about OT before she started working with a therapist in the community mental health team that was supporting her. She says: “I think OT has saved me. It has helped me to talk to someone who will listen and not judge. OT has helped build my confidence to try new things.

“I saw both the Community OT in from the Specialist Older Adults Mental Health Team and also worked with the OT in the day treatment service when I was at my lowest. She introduced me to art based activities which was helpful.  I was still taking one day at a time back then and the OT there really looked out for me.

“I worked with the Recovery College who were really great and when I was discharged from their service I saw the Community OT again. She helped me to look at other roles/activities and groups.  I have also been ashamed of my dyslexia but I have also received support from You Can do it – which was really helpful and developed my confidence and ability to use my computer.”

She goes on to explain: “OT has encouraged me to try new things and to do things that are meaningful to me rather than to do things other people think I should do. I have learnt how to be more assertive and to say no when necessary. Just knowing that there is someone to ‘be there’ is the most important thing.”

Therapists across Sussex Partnership will be speaking out on social media throughout the week making their pledges to patients and colleagues about how they will secure the future of their profession. Staff will share the activities that help them manage their own mental and physical wellbeing and there will be opportunities at hospital and community sites for staff and people that use services to find out more about OT and the difference it can make.