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Journal Review:Occupational Therapy in the Modern adult acute Mental Health Setting

Updated on January 9, 2013

Occupational therapy in the modern adult acute mental health setting: a review of current practice: International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, Vol. 17

In this journal the authors aim to describe and summarize the literature that has been published recently on the issue of today’s practices of occupational therapy in the inpatient mental health setting. They call for professional occupational therapists to reflect on current practices and develop a new focus on clinical evaluation.

The main subjects of the study are the people living with mental health illness and the occupational therapists who provide care for them. The authors state that most of the care provided to mentally ill patients should be provided at the community level. Williams and Lloyd (2010) have observed that shifting the care from inpatient to the community settings has seen improvement in the quality of care extended to the mental patients. Moreover, the shift has helped to expand the scope of practice for occupational therapists.

Reference materials employed by the authors include policy documents, text books and occupational therapy journal articles of Canada, UK and Australia from the year 1990 to today. EbscoHost and CINAHL databases were used for electronic search.

The authors of article found out that patient’s attitudes, hope, fears, their specific social circumstances as well as their behavior concerning their recovery have to be incorporated to any comprehensive treatment technique. Some patients are always readmitted after release because of poor relations with others or social problems such as lack of housing, finance and work. For this reasons, occupational therapists have to provide treatment to the patients with a view of helping them to participate in meaningful occupations when in the health facilities and after being discharged. Occupational therapy services are beneficial for both the health and recovery of inpatient patients. Occupations generally involve activities related to work, self-care or leisure.

Four main elements of occupational therapy practice in acute mental health setting were identified from the literature. They are; individual assessment, where the occupational therapist analyses the relationships between health, illness and occupational functioning. Second involves therapeutic groups which are divided into two categories, activity based and support based groups. Third element involves individual therapy which helps them engage in meaningful occupations after release. Finally is the discharge planning and the occupational therapists should provide suggestions on the best services and environment for the patient after being discharged. These elements of practice act as a concrete base where clinical practice can be evaluated (Williams and Lloyd, 2010).

The authors of the article conducted quite a good research on occupational therapy as evidenced from the literature material they used. Areas of practice described in the literature have been reviewed, although not satisfactorily. Moreover, some of the upcoming roles in occupational therapy have not been covered. The authors should have at least discussed the recent opportunities for occupational therapists such as the adaption of sensory modulation techniques and theory and also the vocational rehabilitation using the evidenced based Individual Placement and Support Model.

Occupational therapy contributes significantly to the provision of mental health care. New work practices developed and implemented by occupation therapists will go a long way in helping the occupation therapy develop a precise role within the modern acute mental health services. Renewed focus on carrying out meaningful evaluation of occupational therapy clinical practice, will enable the profession adapt well in the modern day acute mental health setting.

The changes to service provision in mental health have had an impact on the role of occupational therapy in the acute mental health setting. Moreover, it has improved people’s understanding of mental health, which is not just about reducing symptoms, but also putting emphasis on people engaging in occupational roles. A renewed focus on the four core elements of practice will provide a solid foundation for a common language in coming up with new roles, and for developing a concrete evidence base for the full potential of occupational therapy in the acute mental health setting.


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