Mental Health in Occupational Therapy- quite the oxymoron right? At least in the United States. In this episode we got to chat with Brock Cook, an occupational therapist from Australia and a mental health advocate. Brock shares his approach to mental health, his experiences as a professor, an overview of the Australian healthcare system, and more. Brock is all-around a cool guy that we had so much fun chatting with and exchanging our own experiences with healthcare. Here are three takeaways from our conversation:
“I know occupational therapy isn’t very big in mental health over there (United States), so it makes me wonder if it’s being delivered by another professional instead of being delivered by an OT.” – Brock Cook, BA, Occupational Therapist
TREAT THE UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL, NOT THE DIAGNOSIS.
It can be easy to fixate on the diagnosis when entering a new practice setting. From my experience working with the pediatric population for five years, I know that no two children with the same diagnosis present the same way. Sure, they may have many similar symptoms and features. However, they are not the same people. They do not share the same goals, the same lives. Brock talks about how it’s so important to focus on the person’s unique strengths, and deficits more so than the diagnosis. The diagnosis is a label, but it does not define the person. This is always a good reminder for occupational therapists and other healthcare professionals.
BURNOUT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE.
Brock is a passionate occupational therapist with other passions for life, including powerlifting. When Brock experienced his burnout, he admits that it was so difficult for him to realize it because he was too close to it. I totally get it because I’ve been there too! You don’t recognize yourself anymore. You enter this career path because you love helping others, but when you begin to dread your job, your profession, and feel completely depleted, you also question many things. Brock is a perfect example of someone that has a lot of spark and charisma for life and for occupational therapy, but experienced pretty significant burnout. It just goes to show that burnout does not directly correlate with how committed you are to your profession- it is unforgiving and unbiased. Become aware of yourself and if you too are starting to develop burnout and how it is impacting your life.
ALWAYS USE OCCUPATION.
The best form of therapy? Occupations! No matter where you are in the world, this principle holds true. You can always depend on occupation to be the best therapy you can deliver to your patients. As Brock puts it, occupational therapy is the link between what a client wants to do and how to get there. Occupational therapists should have a bigger role in many of the transitions that people may go through in life- for example, the transition for a person leaving prison, or a person in recovery from addiction being discharged from inpatient. It’s more than just a matter of helping someone logistically transition, but rather helping people to cope, adjust to daily living routines, and more.