A Student’s perspective: ‘Exploring the use of theoretical application in practice’

A guest Post by Michelle Perryman, a 2nd year MSc Occupational Therapy Student (Accelerated Route) from the UK


Over the past two years, i have asked Occupational Therapist’s (OT’s) which theory underpins their practice? I was told the 100% of theoretical consideration I seek would only contribute to around 30% of my reasoning’s in the ‘real world’. Furthermore, at times evidence-based practice will not be mentioned.  As a result, I observed. So what did I find? Although, the professionals did not verbally link theory, this however, was projected by their practice, I found the OT’s employing Frames of references  (FORs) such as the client centered approach to the behavioral FOR (and more). So I questioned? Why is the expression of evidence based practice important if its already being used? Continue reading

Guest Post: How A Students Perspective of MH Changed on Placement

A guest post by Ms Louise Hesketh, an OT student at the University of Salford in the UK

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When I found out that I was going on a five week placement to a community mental health team I had mixed feelings. I was pleased as my placements so far had been in physical health in hospital settings. However, and I feel embarrassed to say this, I was uneasy. When I went to meet with my educator I asked questions regarding safety and I was met with the response that this client group are more at risk from themselves and others than they are to us. I left the office questioning my understanding of those with severe and enduring mental health conditions as potentially dangerous, wondering where this cliché had been constructed from and hoping that the next five weeks would quash it. Continue reading

Guest Post: A Student Experience in MH Placement

Guest Post: A Student Experience in MH Placement

A guest post by Ms Jen Roberts, an OT student at the University of Salford in the UK


I have been asked to write about my student experience whilst on a mental health placement. First of all, I have only had five weeks experience so I’ll try to give you all a descriptive and informative representation as much as I can in the short time I was there. Continue reading

Setting up a Sensory Modulation Room?

A sensory room is basically a room where a person can visit and use different items or activities that are aimed at elevating or lowering the stimulation of different senses. When used appropriately, sensory rooms: 

  • Help to create a safe space
  • Facilitate the therapeutic alliance
  • Provide opportunities for engagement in prevention and crisis de-escalation strategies, as well as a host of other therapeutic exchanges (to teach skills, offer a variety of therapeutic activities, etc.) 
  • Promote self-care/self-nurturance, resilience & recovery

Currently Sensory modulation is being used as an tool in seclusion and restraint reduction in mental health units in numerous countries. Seclusion and restraint reduction is an integral part of ever increasing need to improve client safety and quality of stay on mental health units.  Continue reading

Is Your Life Balanced?

Did you know that having a look at what you do is equally as important as watching what you eat? Do this short 7 questions test to see how balanced you life roles are! Show your family and friends and compare scores. Lets raise awareness of the importance of balanced, fulfilling lives!


Tips For OT’s New To Mental Health

Hi All!

Thought I’d take another shot at this Blog Posting and see how I go (feel free to leave feedback for me – both the great and not so great!).

For this entry, I really wanted to have a look at tips for new OT’s working in the Mental Health area.  I know how daunting I found it all when I first started working in Mental Health, so I wanted to try and at least share some things which I found useful for me – hopefully others will find them useful too!

  1. Have an open mind – At the end of the day we’re all human and we’re all just trying to get through life.  No person is better than any other, and each person has their own story to tell, and their own challenges to face.  The beauty of working as an OT in Mental Health is that we actually get to help people tell their stories, have a say in their own treatment, and also work towards helping them to get back to living the life that THEY want by setting their own goals.
  2. Know your Mental State Exam, and know it well –The MSE is an important part of the work we do as clinicians in Mental Health; and while it’s not an OT specific skill or assessment, it’s important to do, and do well.  An MSE helps to serve as a “snapshot” of the person you are working with at that particular point in time – it not only describes a persons mental state at a particular time, but it’s also an important tool that can:
    • Help substantiate the need for ongoing therapeutic input
    • Inform diagnosis
    • Convey information to other important stakeholders on the team
    • And also determine the direction treatment may need to take
  3. Know how to safely, appropriately and quickly assess Risk – I can’t stress enough the importance of this point.  Again, a Risk Assessment isn’t an OT specific skill or assessment, but is probably one of the most important things any clinician working in Mental Health needs to be able to competently do.  Ultimately, each individual is responsible for managing risk, and there are serious repercussions for breaches with this, that could result in placing not only yourself at risk, but also your colleagues and the client themselves.  Ultimately – ask before you proceed!
  4. Find a Mentor or Supervisor to link yourself in with, and take advantage accordingly – One of the biggest things that I found when starting to work in this area was just how overwhelming it can all be.  As with any new area of work, there’s A LOT to learn and A LOT to take in – so linking yourself in with a more experienced OT and receiving support can be a big help when you’re new to it all.  I really would suggest regular weekly sessions with your Mentor or Supervisor when you’re first starting work in Mental Health.  I realise that sounds ‘full on’, but trust me – you’ll be thankful you did it!
  5. Debrief – TALK TALK TALK to other clinicians, and your supervisor / mentor to debrief as you need.  Therapeutic use of self as an OT in Mental Health can be draining and exhausting – so talk it out and get it off your chest (keeping in mind appropriate confidentiality guidelines etc of course!).
  6. Engage in as many Professional Development Opportunities as you can – Act like a sponge and soak it all up – as I said, there’s lots to learn and take on board when working in this area (particularly when starting out).  Thankfully there are lots of Professional Development opportunities for OT’s in Mental Health, so link yourself in with as many information sources as you can and take copious amounts of notes!
  7. Keep a Resource Folder – You will thank yourself for this as time goes by, trust me!  I keep a flash drive with me at all times and get my hands on as many available resources and materials as I can – you’ll be surprised how many times you draw back on things and actually use what you find.  Nothing beats the feeling of finding an exciting new resource and getting good results with your clients when you use it in practice!  Keep in mind as well that MH4OT is a great resource to use!
  8. Take Advantage of working in a Multi Disciplinary Team – You’ll learn so much from Nurses, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Social Workers and other professionals working in the Mental Health Area.  They can be a great source of information, and also great resources to help you better understand Mental Health, and the complexities of working in this area.  If nothing else, their stories are usually always great too!
  9. Listen and Observe – Often you’ll learn more about your clients from listening and watching, than you will from reading about them.  Collateral Information is important (and it’s great to read up and get as much background information as possible), but there are times when just engaging with a client and talking to them over a cup of coffee will help you understand them and their needs best.  Encourage people to tell their stories.  Be creative and receptive when clients come up with their own solutions to issues.  This is where your good interaction and communication skills will really help you out!
  10. Don’t expect 2 days to ever be the same – One of the beauties of working in this area (and also one of the real challenges) is the fact that no 2 days are ever the same, and things often don’t quite go according to plan.  It’s important to be flexible and understanding – recovery from Mental Health isn’t a linear thing so learn to expect the unexpected and be prepared for whatever the day will throw at you.
  11. Have a sense of Humour – Laughter really sometimes is the best medicine!
  12. Most importantly – ENJOY YOURSELF!!!

Working in Mental Health will allow you to meet some amazing, inspirational and genuinely fantastic people.  DON’T expect it to be easy, but DO expect that you really will learn something new every day, and prepare to be amazed.  It really is one of the most challenging areas that you can work in as an OT, but it is definitely also one of the most rewarding.