Occupational therapy may bring to mind old veterans sitting around with leather craft kits, or the rigid schedules and constructions offered for people with worsening dementia. While these are two good examples of occupational therapy, it is a very tiny sample of what the term means. Occupational therapy finds its way into virtually every field of medicine and recovery, and has revolutionized the treatments for many common conditions. Here are five surprising conditions in which occupational therapy can sometimes deliver astonishing results, even in situations that have few – or no – other options for treatment.
Occupational therapy is often the first stop for stroke victims, or for people who sustain brain injury in an accident. It works to not only reacquaint an individual with his or her motor skills, but it can stimulate the creation of new neural pathways. The brain is an amazingly adaptive organ, and can actually reestablish function by going outside of the injured area. Working the brain is the same as working a muscle in this respect – you’re making and strengthening neurological connections. Studies suggest that occupational therapy may help slow or stop the progression of such devastating degenerative conditions as Alzheimer’s disease or multiple sclerosis.
Heart problems kill more people than anything else, and obesity is a huge factor in heart disease. In addition, obese people tend to lack energy, suffer from depression, and feel like unproductive members of society. Occupational therapy for obesity can not only help with the psychological effects, it can help combat the unhealthy weight as well. Some occupational therapy involves significant exercise, but even therapies such as establishing a schedule or doing a craft hobby can help. These can help you feel more in control, adopt healthy eating practices, and get used to near-constant motion of some type.
In most cases, juvenile delinquency occurs for one of two reasons: Boredom or trauma of some kind. During the transition from childhood to adulthood, many teens also experience feelings of worthlessness, or of not fitting in. Occupational therapy specific to juveniles can offer constructive, creative options for kids and teens of all ages. It helps encourage the exploration and development of new skills, establishes some often much-needed structure, and instills confidence in social and work situations. The right occupational therapy is also helpful for keeping prisoners calm and alleviating boredom, but ideally it won’t get that far.
Seriously, occupational therapy can help cure unemployment? It most certainly can. While the obvious answer is that occupational therapy can help teach hirable skills, it’s not the only way that occupational therapy can reduce unemployment numbers. Skills-related therapies can help you learn what you really enjoy doing and what you’re good at, as well as invoke that feel-good rush of accomplishment. People who know the benefits of working beyond merely collecting a paycheck are more likely to be motivated to find work, and to do a great job. Occupational therapy can also encourage creative thought, stimulating “non-conventional” employment ideas such as starting a business or freelancing over the internet.
A person recovering from addiction has a wide range of issues with which to come to terms. It’s likely that the addict’s family and work life are in shambles, and that feelings of self-worth and confidence are about as low as they can get. Occupational therapy helps instill that confidence and offers structure. In addition, some types of therapy such as exercise or crafts can serve as a mechanism to refocus and even meditate when the urge strikes to grab another needle, bottle or pill. Occupational therapy that involves volunteering also carries the all-important element of service work, which is often crucial to successful recovery.
There are many types of occupational therapy. Don’t think that just because a certain type you’ve heard of won’t help you, occupational therapy must not be for you. Whether you struggle with physical, mental or spiritual illness, or are simply dissatisfied with your day-to-day routine, occupational therapy may hold some helpful answers.