How do mental health disorders impact work and leisure? How can Occupational Therapy help?

occupational therapy, occupational therapist, occupational therapy for mental health disorders

How do mental health disorders impact work and leisure? How can Occupational Therapy help?


We are all aware of this idiom! Aren’t we? Why do you think it is important to engage our mind into something purposeful? How can you define a purposeful activity? Is your daily routine being purposeful? Does your mental health have any effect on your daily routine? What impact does it have on your work and daily routine? What can be done to not let the disturbed mental health have impact on the work and leisure activities?

Let us seek answers to the above questions!

Purposeful activity is any task in your daily routine which is meaningful to you. It can be a reason you wake up to a new day. It can be your passion for work or new-found hobby or the pursuit of leisure activity.

Work and leisure activities are a major part of your daily routine which indeed are purposeful. Work can be a person working as a professional working from 9am to 5pm or even a housewife working for her home. Work need not be always monetary but needs to be purposeful and productive. It increases one’s self esteem and self-respect. Leisure activities can be as simple as listening to music or going on treks on the weekends. Pursuing leisure activities improve the sense of self.

How do mental health disorders impact work and leisure activities?

Mental health disorders have a detrimental impact on your daily routine tasks. Mental health disorder might make you feel worthless as if you are not contributing to yourself and the society. The purposeful activities in your life work and leisure activities might not give you the same meaning and satisfaction as it was before the onset of the mental health disorder. Hence it becomes very important to get the client back on track and provide them help to carry on with the purposeful activity i.e. work and leisure activity.

Occupational Therapy intervention:

An Occupational Therapist brings meaning to the functional activity.

Before beginning what assessment and intervention is provided by an Occupational Therapist; let us have a look at the history of Occupational History,

As quoted in the article ‘A Brief history of Occupational Therapy’ by Michel Moninger, COTA/L – “World War I was a pivotal time for the development of occupational therapy. The US military recognized the benefit of “reconstruction aides” providing OT services to those dealing with mental health and physical dysfunction challenges. During this and the subsequent second World War, a great push was made for occupational therapy services to be provided to wounded soldiers. It was during this time that a drastic shift was made from simply utilizing arts and crafts to using activities of daily living in the treatment of a variety of conditions. This push and advancement greatly served to solidify the value of occupational therapy on the world scene.”

As you just read, the crux of Occupational Therapy is to engage the client in a purposeful activity which is meaningful. Also important to note that the emergence of Occupational Therapy services was 1st in Mental Health client.

Usually, when the client approaches an Occupational Therapist whose work and leisure activities are impacted due to Mental Health, the Occupational Therapist tries to gather information subjectively about how the work and leisure activities going on before the onset of the illness and how is it impacted currently due to the Mental Health Disorder. Objective assessment tools like- Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM), Routine Task Inventory (RTI), and Model of Human Occupation Screening Tool Self-Assessment (MOHOST) can be useful to understand the impact of Mental Health Disorder on work and leisure activities. Occupational Therapy intervention for adult mental health client is holistic and uses remedial and compensatory approaches. Remedial approach addresses the weakness and makes a possible and desired improvement addressing the concerns. The compensatory approach addresses the strengths and makes use of the strengths to make it functional for the client to carry out the daily routine activity.

Mpower- The Foundation, Mumbai caters to clients with Mental Health Disorders. The foundation has a multidisciplinary team of professionals. The Occupational Therapist at Mpower Foundation provides services to Child Psychiatry cases as well as Adult clients with Mental Health Disorders. Following are a few related case studies which address intervention to the impact of mental health disorders on work and leisure activities:

Case 1.

A client diagnosed with ADHD working in Sales department finds it difficult to prioritize the tasks at hand and to update the daily data. The client also finds it difficult to attend meetings and comprehend it at the end of the session. The therapist worked on the visual and auditory attention and memory skills. Also as compensatory strategies, the therapist suggested him to make a visual board, prioritize and write down the tasks on sticky note and put it on the board; it would be a visual reminder for the client and once the work gets done he can remove the sticky notes which would give him a feedback. Understanding his job profile and his difficulty, therapist formulated an excel sheet which he can use to segregate the information so that it becomes easy for him to update the daily report at the end of the day.

Case 2.

A client diagnosed with dementia comes with his caregiver with a concern that he is being irritable and sleepy all day. He is currently on work leave. Since he had always been a workaholic, this sudden change of shift is very distressful and the lack of leisure activities adds on to the distress. Therapist is providing cognitive-perceptual remediation. The 1st thing she addressed was to formulate a structured schedule in collaboration with the client and caregiver to include physical activity, leisure activity, shared activity with the spouse and a slot kept exclusively for family time. A therapist also has made efforts to explore and introduce new leisure activities like cooking, gardening, and listening to audio books. Along with the cognitive-perceptual remediation, the therapist also tried continuing his leisure activity of reading newspapers and solving Sudoku puzzles. Earlier he used to solve an advanced level puzzle and now he can solve an easy level puzzle, the best therapeutic goal achieved in this case is he feels happy pursuing his old leisure activity even with the present illness!

Also read,

Common behaviours associated with mental Illness.
Tap mental health symptoms at an early phase
Questions to ask a mental health counsellor. Consult the best mental health counsellor.

image credits: Freepik