Occupational Therapy

Client-centred health profession concerned with promoting recovery through occupation.

Occupational therapy is a client-centred health profession concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement. (WFOT 2012)

Occupational therapy is based on the ICF framework that conceptualizes a person’s level of functioning as a dynamic interaction between her or his health conditions, environmental factors, and personal factors. Its’ main concept is that occupation is an essential and basic human need, that brings meaning to life, organizes behavior and improves quality of life (reed 2005).

In therapy, Occupational therapists help the person to be fully participate and be successful and satisfied in her or his self-selected, meaningful and necessary occupations and activities. The process starts with a comprehensive functional assessment. The intervention focuses on achieving personal goals by creating a safe and enabling environment and improving skills and strategies with gradual challenges.

Recovery refers to the process in which a person with mental health problems learns to manage the disorder and reclaim a meaningful life in his or her community. It is defined as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential” (SAMHSA, 2012).

A primary goal of the recovery model is to facilitate resiliency, health, and wellness in the community of the individual’s choice, rather than to manage symptoms. SAMHSA (2012) identified 10 guiding principles of recovery: (1) hope, (2) person-driven, (3) many pathways, (4) holistic, (5) peer support, (6) relational, (7) culture, (8) addresses trauma, (9) strengths/responsibility, and (10) respect. These fundamental recovery principles are in full alignment with the philosophy of occupational therapy practice, which is inherently client centered, collaborative, and focused on supporting resiliency, full participation, health promotion, and a wellness lifestyle.

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Occupational therapy practitioners work collaboratively with people in a manner that helps to foster hope, motivation, and empowerment. Main concepts of occupational therapy in mental health are:
  •  Empowerment- supporting a person and believing in his abilities, thereby allowing opportunities to take responsibility, and make choices and decisions.
  • Enablement- helping the person to set himself goals, achieve everything important to him and coping with his life circumstances, through establishing a cooperative relationship and creating opportunities to try new spaces, developing skills and gain control.
The following are examples of how the knowledge and skill base of occupational therapy is used in the process of assisting individuals in all phases of mental health recovery:
  •  Teach and support the active use of coping strategies to help manage the effect of symptoms of illness on one’s life, including being more organized and able to engage in activities of choice.
  • Help to identify and implement healthy habits, rituals, and routines to support a wellness lifestyle by addressing barriers and building on existing abilities.
  • Support the identification of personal values, needs, and goals to enable informed, realistic decision making, such as when considering housing and employment options.
  • encourage the creation and use of a wellness recovery action plan in group or individual sessions.
  • Support the ability to engage in long-term planning (e.g., Sal Shikum) that leads to meeting personal recovery goals



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