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How to Help Your Patients with Mental Health Conditions: Understanding the Role of Occupational Therapy

As a primary care physician, you are well aware of the increasing prevalence of mental health conditions within our community. One tool in management of mental health conditions is occupational therapy (OT). Many primary care physicians are not aware of the full potential of OT in mental health care. For example, did you know that OTs are able to see patients under Medicare’s Better Access to Mental Health (BAMH) Scheme? Here are some tips for understanding the role of OT and referring your patients to appropriate services.

What is Occupational Therapy? OT is a type of therapy that helps people develop or regain skills necessary for daily life. Occupational therapists (OTs) work with patients to improve their ability to perform daily tasks, such as self-care, work, home management, accessing the community, and engaging in leisure and social activities. In the context of mental health, OT can help patients to learn the skills to manage their mental health conditions, so they can participate in the activities which are important to them.

How Can OT Help with Mental Health Management? OT assists patients with mental health conditions to reduce the impact of their symptoms and improve function. OTs can provide psychological-based strategies, such as ACT, CBT, mindfulness and emotion regulation skills. They also provide support for daily activities, roles and self-management – such as goal setting, stress management, sleep hygiene, community access and return to work planning. OTs also support social and emotional wellbeing by looking at social skills training and leisure exploration. Additionally, OTs can assist with graded exposure, trauma, and addressing mental health and neurodevelopmental challenges.

How Can You Refer Your Patients to OT Services? It’s important to note that not all occupational therapists are skilled in mental health management, or are registered BAMH practitioners. At Lifeworks Occupational Therapy, we have numerous therapists that are registered to provide these services, both in the North, South and Central areas of Perth.

To make a referral to Lifeworks Occupational Therapy, please email [email protected]; or access our web-based referral form: If you would like any further information, please do not hesitate to contact our friendly customer care team on (08) 7082 0622.

Let’s work together to help our patients access the care they need to manage their mental health.

Heidi is a qualified Occupational Therapist with over 20 years of experience in both community and inpatient mental health settings. She specializes in case management, psychoeducation, counselling, functional assessment, psychosocial rehabilitation, and individual and group therapies. Heidi is trained in various therapeutic techniques, including DBT, ACT, and CBT. She is also a registered OT with the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia and an endorsed BAMH practitioner. In her free time, Heidi enjoys yoga, walking, and spending time with her family.

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