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Perinatal Mental Health and Occupational Therapy

Supporting you with the transition into the new role of motherhood

The arrival of a baby is a forever life changing event for women, their partners and families. At Lifeworks Occupational Therapy we understand that this is a time of significant change, emotional upheaval and adjustment. We are passionate about supporting mothers and their families in their journey.

What is Perinatal Mental Health?

Perinatal Mental Health refers to the emotional and psychological health and wellbeing of a parent during the period from conception to 12 months after a baby is born. There are a number of mental health problems which can be experienced by parents at this time including anxiety, depression and intrusive and distressing thoughts. We know that during the perinatal period, onset and re-occurrence of mental illness is higher than at any other time for women. We also know that fathers may also experience mental health concerns during this time too. 

How can an Occupational Therapist help in the perinatal period?

Our OTs are skilled in assessing an individual’s mental health and how this impacts on their ability to function in their everyday daily life and valued roles. An OT can play a role in supporting parents during this significant transition at pre-conception, pregnancy, following the birth of their baby, surrogacy or adoption through to the postnatal period with the challenges and joys that parenthood brings. OTs address the physical, emotional, psychological and social challenges experienced by clients, helping parents adapt to their new roles and responsibilities with a sensitive, practical and holistic approach.

Our Approach

We bring a person-centred approach to our work and acknowledge the mother-baby relationship being essential to incorporate into therapy planning and interventions. Our OTs are committed to providing a trauma-informed and family sensitive approach as this will lead to better outcomes in empowering families with knowledge and skills to enhance their own quality of life as well as those they love. We want to assist people to live their best lives.

Steps to Your Recovery

1

Understanding your needs

It can be daunting to seek out support and help for many reasons. We want to take the time to better understand your needs and the areas of your life that you would like support. We take into consideration the different contexts in your life- the social, cultural, spiritual, environmental factors which may be present. We want you to feel comfortable and safe to explore what is truly important so we will be led by you in this process. If doing this in person is a challenge we are happy to offer telehealth sessions.   

2

Individualised Assessment

Our OTs may ask you to complete assessments to better understand the impact of your experiences, identifying needs and the barriers which may be limiting your quality of life. 

3

Develop a Therapy Plan

We will work collaboratively with you to identify personal goals that align with your aspirations, values, priorities and needs. Together we will think about the needs of you, your baby and other loved ones in your life. We will decide together the skills, strategies and interventions that are going to be most helpful in achieving these goals. 

4

Implement Plan

We will meet on a regular basis to carry out this Therapy Plan either meeting at the clinic, your home or in the community. Telehealth is even an option if bundling up baby is feeling just too tricky!

5

Evaluate Progress

We will check in with you to review how the sessions are going and if we need to make adjustments to the Therapy Plan. Just like the journey of motherhood is a changing landscape, we will flexibly address your needs as necessary.

6

Build skills for Transition

Empowering you with tools and strategies to feel more in control, less overwhelmed and happier with your routines- our aim is to prepare you for the journey without our therapy input.

7

Ongoing Support

Providing assistance when you feel you need Occupational Therapy- now or down the track.

Specific Interventions

Our Perinatal Mental Health services encompass a range of evidence-based interventions, including:

Parenting Support and Skill Building

For clients who are parents or soon-to-be parents, OTs offer guidance on parenting skills, bonding activities with your infant, and strategies to manage the challenges of parenthood while maintaining mental health and wellbeing.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT focuses on helping clients identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviours, improving emotional regulation and promoting healthier ways of coping with stress and challenges.

Emotional Regulation and Coping Skills Training

OTs teach techniques to help clients manage and regulate their emotions, such as mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation. These skills empower clients to cope with stressors and mood fluctuations developing greater awareness of their thoughts and feelings, fostering self compassion and resilience during pregnancy and postpartum.

Psychoeducation

We provide clients and their families with information and resources about mental health conditions and coping strategies, empowering them to make informed decisions about their care.

Motivational Interviewing

A collaborative conversation technique that helps clients identify their personal values, explore their motivation for change, and build their confidence to overcome obstacles and achieve their mental health goals.

Lifestyle and Routine Management

We support clients before baby arrives as they anticipate the changes in their lifestyle and routine. OTs will assist clients to transition into their new roles as parents, using a strength-based approach to determine what the mother finds important in her routine and lifestyle. Our therapists help clients establish healthy routines and develop self-care strategies to promote overall well-being and prevent relapse.

Social Skills Support

We assist clients in developing and maintaining healthy relationships, improving communication skills, and building a supportive network.

Sleep Health

Receive guidance on improving your sleep habits and environment, as sleep deprivation at this challenging time is a common problem encountered by young families.

Activity Pacing and Energy Conservation Strategies

Learn to balance your daily activities and conserve energy, preventing fatigue. Receive guidance on organising your day and prioritising activities, helping you to regain control over your life and being more aligned to your values.

Environment modifications and assistive technology

Co-occupations for a new mother are activities that involve her and her baby engaging in meaningful interactions and experiences together for example: feeding, play and interaction. Occupational therapists play a significant role in supporting new mothers in navigating and optimizing these co-occupations and recommending environmental modifications. This involves adapting or altering a person’s physical surroundings to enhance their ability to engage in such tasks or suggesting assistive technology/aids/equipment.  The goal is to create environments that are supportive, accessible, and conducive to the mother and baby’s needs.

Virtual Reality Therapy

Engage in lifelike, immersive simulations tailored to address your specific mental health challenges. Under the guidance of our skilled therapists, you’ll safely confront and manage difficult situations or emotions, develop coping strategies, and build confidence for real-life scenarios, all within a controlled and supportive virtual environment.

Benefits

By participating in our perinatal mental health recovery services, you can expect to experience:

Enhanced Emotional Well-being

Improved emotional well-being and self-confidence. feeling more secure in your roles eg: mother/parent, partner, worker etc.

Strengthened Relationships

Strengthened relationships and social connections. Nurturing your relationship with baby, family and partner

Enhanced Coping Strategies

Enhanced ability to cope with stress and daily challenges

Increased Confidence

Greater understanding of your mental health and treatment options to move forward

Greater Independence

A personalised roadmap to achieve and maintain lasting mental health recovery

Frequently Asked Questions

What mental health conditions does this service support?

Lifeworks OT provides occupational therapy services for a wide range of common mental health and psychiatric conditions, including:

  • Perinatal Mental Health conditions: such as Perinatal Anxiety, Postnatal Depression, Postpartum Psychosis, Postpartum OCD, Adjustment Disorder
  • Anxiety disorders: such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Depressive disorders: such as Postnatal Depression; Major Depressive Disorder, Dysthymia, and Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Bipolar disorder: characterized by episodes of mania and depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): a condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): characterized by a pattern of unstable relationships, self-image, and emotions
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Eating disorders: such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Schizophrenia and psychosis: 

Our occupational therapists use evidence-based techniques and interventions tailored to the specific needs of each individual, working closely with other mental health professionals to provide comprehensive and effective care. Our goal is to empower individuals to live their best life possible, despite the challenges of mental health conditions, by supporting them in their daily living activities, building their self-esteem and confidence, improving their social skills and relationships, increasing their participation in meaningful activities, and helping them return to work or studies..

If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health condition and would like to learn more about how occupational therapy can help, please contact us to schedule an appointment. We are here to support you in your journey towards recovery and improved well-being.

Can I bring my baby along to sessions?

Definitely! We would love to see you with your baby. Our sessions will be addressing some of the challenges you are experiencing as a parent. Having your baby present can help normalize these experiences and make it easier for the mother/parent to discuss her concerns openly. It also allows the OT to offer real-time guidance and support in handling parenting difficulties.For mothers experiencing difficulties in bonding with their babies or struggling with postpartum mood disorders, involving the baby in therapy sessions allows for attachment-focused interventions. These interventions aim to strengthen the attachment bond between the mother and child, promote sensitive and responsive caregiving, and support the mother’s emotional well-being.

Tell me more about home visiting?

Occupational Therapists understand that your environment has a significant impact on your ability to perform tasks. Life skills can’t always be fully developed away from the places in which we live and the situations we experience in our home, our workplace and our community.

At times, modifying your home or work environment will be a part of the treatment process. With this in mind, it is important to include these environments during all aspects of treatment, including during the initial assessment and during any subsequent interventions and therapies. Home visiting also makes it very easy for you to attend appointments and allows therapies to be delivered in a space where you feel at home.Clinic rooms, work-sites, schools, and other community-based venues may also be used where appropriate.

If you live in the regions or you would prefer online sessions we are able to provide telehealth. 

Do I need a referral?

  • You don’t need a referral from a health professional to access our services. You can simply call and make an appointment, or book online.
  • If you wish to claim a medicare rebate under Better Access to Mental Health or under Chronic Disease Management you will need a referral. We can often help you to identify your eligibility for Medicare rebates or even contact your GP to help you arrange for a referral
  • When a referral is received from another health professional, like your GP, we will contact you by phone. This provides an opportunity to answer any questions you might have and to schedule an initial appointment. This initial appointment can be held at our clinics or an occupational therapist conducting a home visit (see “Tell me more about home visiting”). The initial appointment involves an interview and any other assessments needed to give us an understanding of your current circumstances and concerns. At the second appointment we will work with you to set treatment goals and create a treatment plan and then begin treatment. This may include regular appointments and homework tasks.
  • Your progress is regularly reviewed in consultation with you, and treatment continues until your goals are achieved or treatment is ended by either you or your therapist.
  • LifeWorks Occupational Therapy services are delivered in a professional, confidential and collaborative way. Clients are involved in every aspect of the treatment process, including identifying goals and formulating their individual treatment plans.

I am already seeing a psychologist. Will I still benefit from seeing an OT in mental health?

Absolutely!

Psychologists, Occupational Therapists and other health professionals often work together to assist people to achieve their goals. These therapies complement each other to ensure that you achieve the best recovery outcomes.

Psychologists provide therapies designed to change the way someone is thinking – or how they respond to their own thoughts.

Occupational Therapists provide therapies designed to change the way someone is functioning. We are concerned with how a person’s mental health condition is affecting what they can do, and we help them develop skills or change their environment to improve function.

Who is suitable for the service?

A person may be suitable for LifeWorks Occupational Therapy’s Perinatal Mental Health service if they experience any of the following:

  • Difficulties managing the new role of parenthood or adjusting to new family routines
  • Need support following an admission to the Mother Baby Unit 
  • Difficulty functioning within their work, home, social or recreational environments
  • Lack of motivation in managing their self-care, or doing their usual daily activities
  • Poor sleep
  • Withdrawal from friends and family or preferring to be alone
  • Disorganisation
  • Loss of role (e.g. worker, partner, caregiver)
  • Feelings of failure, inadequacy or loneliness
  • Increased use of substances to cope (e.g. alcohol, overuse of prescription medications)
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Lack of meaning or purpose in life
  • Lack of self-confidence or poor self esteem
  • Struggling with relationships
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Struggling to negotiate the health care or welfare systems
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