Benefiting Patients with Emotional Pain
Using a Joint OT-Psychological Approach
Treating patients whose emotional issues include a strong physical component takes time. The slow progress can be both frustrating and unsatisfying for both you and the client. However, there are ways to promote success. Sensory issues connected to anxiety often hinder emotional breakthroughs, delaying progress and causing undue stress. By addressing these issues with Occupational Therapy (“OT”), success can be reached in a quicker and more effective manner in a wide range of cases.
As occupational therapists, our goal is to enable patients to react to stimulants in a healthy, adaptable manner through achieving balance within the nervous system. OT regulates the body using a bottom up approach, freeing the mind to tackle underlying emotional issues from the top down. Once the physical manifestations of anxiety are corrected with OT, clients are free to focus on the cognitive aspects of their daily challenges, enabling them to see effective change with greater speed.
Adults working with both a psychologist and occupational therapist can reach measurable results in as little as six months. In fact, according to the American Occupational Therapy Association, occupational therapy interventions improve outcomes for those living with mental illness (AOTA 2012). When the physical barriers of optimal functioning are properly addressed with OT, patients can direct their focus to the fundamental emotional issues at hand.
As a result of trauma from her abusive childhood, Deborah, age 35, suffered from claustrophobia, heart palpitations, and daily unmanageable anxiety. Deborah was also challenged in the area of sensory integration – sounds, smells, and the functioning of her physical body were each cause for stress. Deborah’s psychologist suggested she try occupational therapy to address her sensory-induced challenges, while he would focus exclusively on the trauma-induced anxiety during their therapy sessions.
Upon attending occupational therapy, Deborah began to experience entire days with manageable levels of anxiety, and other days with no feelings of anxiety at all. Whereas Deborah had been unable to exhale completely, now Deborah can breathe deeply, thereby diminishing her stress, fatigue and anxiety. Deborah is now able to focus on healing her past through cognitive therapy, thanks to the management of her sensory integration disorder.
Married with 5 children under age 9, Tami felt constant emotional pain. She struggled to express her needs and emotions. Spontaneous encounters completely unsettled her, including the sensations of being around her children. Tami experienced daily anxiety, physical exhaustion, and taut nerves. Her children’s bedtime caused panic, dizziness, lightheadedness, and a constricted chest.
Using techniques she acquired in occupational therapy, Tami was able to maintain calm most of her day, and remain composed throughout her children’s bedtime routine. Tami followed a strict regimen of tactile integration and goal-setting, and within a few short weeks Tami was able to recognize and prevent feelings of overwhelm and learned to communicate her feelings. Her relationship with herself, her husband, and her children took a 360 degree turn for the better.
I’m writing…because I can never thank you enough! I’m a different person. It’s amazing how comfortable I’m able to feel in social situations. Tonight I had a big family celebration and there were people and noise and I was OK, (not that it was perfect but it was OK). And most of all I felt confident and happy in my own body.”– Rachel aged 25
We’ve seen results such as these time and time again.
And we’d be happy to partner in your clients’ success as well.
Once we determine your patient is a good fit for occupational therapy, we’ll collaborate on setting goals to ensure the best possible momentum for your client.