Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy in Mental Health for Seniors


Do you or someone you know struggle with mental health issues and would like to improve your quality of life?


Seeing an occupational therapist may be what you are looking for.


What is Occupational Therapy?


“Occupational Therapy is a profession concerned with promoting health and well being through occupation.  The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life.  Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by enabling people to do things that will enhance their ability to participate or by modifying the environment.”

(Source: World Federation of Occupational Therapy website


So what is occupation?


“ Occupation refers to groups of activities and tasks of everyday life, named, organized and given value and meaning by individuals and a culture.  Occupation is everything people do to occupy themselves, including looking after themselves (self-care), enjoying life (leisure), and contributing to the social and economic fabric of their communities (productivity).”

(Source: Canadian Association of Occupational therapists, 1997)


Who would benefit from seeing and occupational therapist?


Occupational therapists work with people of all ages and from all walks of life who, because of illness, accident or circumstance are unable to participate fully in their chosen occupations.


This includes people who experience emotional distress or mental illness.  Examples may be anxiety, stress, depression, trauma, grief and loss, psychotic illnesses, mood disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders, dementia, family or peer relationship problems, learning and adjustment difficulties.


Where do mental health occupational therapists work?


In public and private hospitals, clinics and community centres.  They also work in employment and in private practice. Private consultations can be self-funded or, when eligible, funded via insurance and/or compensable schemes such as the TAC and DVA.  Occupational therapy consultations can often be facilitated via a referral from your doctor or by contacting an occupational therapist directly.





Sylvia Hicks


  • Diploma Occupational Therapy
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) trained
  • Solution Focused Brief Therapy trained
  • Trained in Supported Decision Making
  • Training in understanding Complicated Grief
  • Experience working with clients with complex needs and co-morbidities such as dementia
  • Trained in relaxation techniques
  • Medicare registered


After 10 ½ years providing clinical management for a specialist mental health team for those people over 65, Sylvia now has a private practice as a sole practitioner to further this work.


When to refer?

An individual may be suitable for mental health occupational therapy services if they show signs of, or report any of the following:


  • Avoidance of social contact
  • Disinterest in managing their self care
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Adjustment issues
  • Feelings of inadequacy, failure and loss of respect
  • Apathy towards engaging in usual activities
  • Disorganization
  • An inability to function within their environment
  • Poor coping skills with ordinary occupations
  • Insomnia or reliance on alcohol or medications to sleep



As an occupational therapist, Sylvia will aim to identify an individual’s strengths and any barriers to their functioning to enable individuals to achieve and maintain an optimum level of independence, activity and participation.  Sylvia will work collaboratively to develop strategies to assist clients to overcome practical challenges. At all times, the focus is on activities that are meaningful to the client.



  • Mental Health status

o   Mental State Examination

o   Depression and Anxiety Scale

o   Cognitive assessment

o   History of illness to date and treatments


  • Function

o   Habits and routines

o   Roles, values, interests

o   Environment

o   Attitudes, motivation

o   ADL

o   Family and relationships


Identification of barriers:

For example:

  • Mobility and vision – may contribute to fear of falling and social isolation.
  • Speech or other communication difficulties
  • Pain
  • Unmet personal care needs
  • Lack of independence due to such things as cutlery needs
  • Lack of mental or sensory stimulation
  • Lack of support to make decisions
  • Social isolation



For example:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Routines, goal setting, graded activities
  • Meaningful occupations
  • Adaptive equipment
  • Relaxation techniques

An emphasis is placed on engagement in meaningful and purposeful activities as these contribute to a person regaining a sense of achievement, self-esteem and wellbeing that may have been affected by their illness.


Better Access to Mental Health Services

For those people with a Mental Health Care Plan from their GP, bulk billing may apply.

For people who are unable to attend a clinic, home visits can be arranged, both in private homes or aged care facilities.





image001Recently I have started using a technique called Neurolink Integration System in my clinic. What I have found when I use this system to treat my patients is that people heal more quickly from a variety of conditions especially low back pain and headaches. They often have more clarity of thinking and are therefore less stressed. Another benefit is that people wake up feeling more refreshed as a result of decreased pain and stress.

Most of you know that I think the reason chiropractic works so well is because it enhances the function of the nervous system. There is a growing body of scientific evidence to support that assertion, some of which is presented on our website www.optimalhealthcanberra.com.au . The signals from the brain to the body can become scrambled by stress; physical stress, mental/emotional stress or chemical stress can all overload the signals the brain sends to the body. The excess stress causes overload to the nervous system.

Neurolink is brilliant at getting the signals to work properly from the brain to the body’s joints, muscles, organs, glands, and all other connections.

I’m so pleased that some of the major reasons people come see me are helped more quickly. The following conditions are commonly helped with Neurolink:

• Sciatica and low back pain
• Headaches
• Colds and flues
• Neck pain and stiffness
• Eczema
• Viruses/immunity
• Fatigue
• Coordination

For a complete list of commonly helped symptoms and for more background material, visit the website at www.neurolinkglobal.com
If you are interested in trying this new approach and would like to talk about your condition you are welcome to call me at 62470070. We can set an appointment time for a consultation including treatment or simply discuss how this system might work for you.
Yours in Health,

Dr. Judy Barritt, Chiropractor
Harmony Health-Ainslie

Neuro-Emotional Technique (NET)

Neuro-Emotional Technique

My goal with NET is to support the nervous system directly to remove the emotional overlay of a physical problem. Most of us are very aware of the connection between our emotional and physical states. For example, when we are stressed many of us can feel our shoulder muscles tighten up. The same thing can happen throughout the body.

People used to think emotions resided entirely in their brain. Now we know other parts of the body can also hold emotions. For example, have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach before a speech? Have you heard people refer to something as a “pain in the neck” or felt a “lump in your throat”? There are many more examples like these that show how emotions can be felt in our body and affect our body, not just our brain!

With NET, we find these ‘stuck’, negatively charged emotions stored in your body and release them. It can often be fast. Many people find NET to be quite an enjoyable experience. While there are no guarantees, in some cases, it can dramatically improve health by removing the physiological, or functional blocks rather than be directed toward the psychological blocks.

Did you ever wonder why you have an aversion to a certain food or why you react in the same way over and over to stressful situations with your spouse or children? These emotional reactions relate to the original formation of the fixed emotion. The only way to stop the pattern is to use the master regulator of the body, the nervous system, to open the body’s channels to allow the brain to “clear out” the original fixed emotion.

Would you like to learn more about Neuro-Emotional Technique (NET)?

Dr Judy finds Neuro-Emotional Technique a powerful tool in helping people to move toward optimising health and quality of life. She would be pleased to discuss your particular concerns with you.

The NET website also has great resources to find out more.

New soft recycling drop-off point Ainslie Laneway!

Now you can pop by for a visit and recycle your soft plastic at the same time!

My health philosophy calls for care of the Earth’s health too, partly as this comes back to impact on people through the amazing interconnections we’re part of.

If you’re wondering what soft recycling is and how large an impact you could have by starting to sort it out of your green bin here are some easy links to get info from.  War on Waste was a great series shown on ABC looking into what impacts Aussies have through our waste behaviours.  You can see the series here on iView.  Or check this shorter video out to see how much of our landfill can be avoided.