From Our Print Archives

Holistic Occupational Therapy

Complementary and alternative medicine is an emerging specialty practice area in the profession

View Comments (10)Print ArticleEmail Article
Vol. 28 • Issue 17 • Page 16

Holistic occupational therapy combines mind-body-spirit therapies with the best of occupational therapy practices to provide health, wellness and disease prevention services. We propose that it is a new and growing specialty as we observe more OTs receiving special training in holistic approaches and incorporating them into practice.

In fact, this trend is happening in all of healthcare. Not only are facilities providing holistic care and focusing on prevention and wellness-for example, a 2011 American Hospital Association survey found that 42 percent of hospitals offer complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) services, up from only 6 percent in 19981 -but healthcare practitioners are also frequently using CAM themselves. A 2011 study found that as many as 76 percent of healthcare providers used at least one form of CAM. This study concluded that the personal use of CAM by healthcare providers may influence the integration of CAM with conventional medicine.2 Additionally, education opportunities for health providers are increasing, including at the university level. The Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine, a community of academic institutions which seeks to advance the principles and practices of integrative healthcare within academic institutions, has increased its membership from 11 to 51 since 2002.3

Archive ImageA

Meanwhile, the general public's use of natural and holistic methods is increasing; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health Interview Survey showed adults' use of CAM increased from 36 to 38.3 percent between 2002 and 2007.4 We, as OTs, need to embrace holistic approaches so we can bring the best possible care to our patients.

CAM and OT

For years, OTs have incorporated many holistic therapies into their practices, such as relaxation, guided imagery, sensory integration, myofascial release, music and listening therapy, art therapy, movement therapy, t'ai chi, hippotherapy and aromatherapy. Such holistic interventions are in line with the theory and scope of OT practice as seen in the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework.5 Further, AOTA asserts that CAM may be used responsibly by occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants as part of a comprehensive approach to enhance engagement in occupation by people, organizations and populations to promote their health and participation in life.6

Holistic occupational therapy could be implemented throughout all stages in life. It can begin by teaching lifelong skills to children, be expanded to address the middle adult years to help individuals stay well longer, and to older generations to have more sense of hope that the end of life can be more pleasurable.

An OT could start a private practice focusing on a specific niche, such as clients with depression or anxiety. These are common diagnoses that can significantly affect the health of individuals throughout their lives. The OT could assess how depression or anxiety impacts their ability to function and participate in daily living. Holistic interventions such as yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques, guided imagery, acupressure, reflexology, diet and nutrition, energy healing and art therapy, among other approaches, may assist the individual to lower or manage the depression or anxiety so they can have more functional and meaningful lives. These interventions may also simultaneously prevent or mitigate the effects or onset of diseases that may develop down the road, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes or cancer.

Integrating Holistic Approaches

Yoga, listening therapy, and health and wellness coaching are examples of how occupational therapists can implement holistic approaches into practice.

Yoga addresses an individual's occupations by emphasizing balance in work, exercise, rest, play and leisure. Three components of yoga have permeated popular culture in the Western hemisphere. These are asana (postures), pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation. Asanas are the physical postures that most people are familiar with. They can strengthen, tone and stretch the musculoskeletal system of the body while calming the mind. Meditation and pranayama can facilitate the relaxation response. The relaxation response has researched benefits of calming the nervous system by lowering blood pressure, heart rate and breath rate, and can create an overall sense of calm. It has been shown to lower stress, depression, anxiety, emotional and physical pain, and may help prevent illness by boosting the immune system.7

Listening therapy affects the auditory and vestibular systems when listening to filtered music through headphones. It helps to turn on the parts in the brain that are off, and to convert left-dominant listeners to right-dominant listeners, which improves auditory processing, cognition, timing and sequencing, balance, coordination, muscle tone, communication and emotional regulation. These multi-dimensional techniques address the nervous system-the sensory and motor systems, cognition, emotions and behavior.8

More OTs are interested in becoming certified as life coaches and health and wellness coaches as part of the holistic, wellness and prevention movement. However, we may not need to be certified to offer these types of services to clients, as OTs are trained in many of the same approaches. Life coaching uses activities as its main modality, and of the 11 competencies listed by the International Coach Federation, OTs learn most of them.9

Components that both OTs and life coaches share are: helping clients discover their own feelings, goals and objectives; effectively invoking inquiry for a greater understanding of the forces that determine emotions, feelings and self-awareness; helping clients create and design actions that will enable them to reach their goals and objectives; helping clients create a road map to personal growth and success; creating, developing, implementing and maintaining a treatment or coaching plan with results that are attainable, specific and measurable; and managing progress and accountability.9

A New Specialty?

The Mayo Clinic encourages and guides patients and physicians to consider holistic approaches in the Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine. Andrew Weil, MD, trains physicians in the specialty of Integrative Medicine (www.integrativemedicine.arizona.edu). There is even an American Holistic Medical Association that has been running since 1975 (www.holisticmedicine.org). The American Holistic Nurse's Association is 5,700 members strong, and supports nurses who would like to become Certified Holistic Nurse Clinicians (www.ahna.org). It's time for OTs to create their own specialty of holistic occupational therapy.

The predominant healthcare model in our country has been to treat the person once they have become sick or have received a diagnosis. We have the opportunity to offer our skills to those seeking ways to improve themselves-with and without diagnoses. We have the opportunity to assist individuals in staying well and engaging in their occupations as long as possible and before they become ill.

References available at www.advanceweb.com/OT or upon request.

Mandy Lubas, OTR/L, has been in the field of medicine for 11 years working with pediatric, adult and geriatric populations. She is certified in sensory integration and as a beginner yoga teacher. Her training has involved biodynamic craniosacral therapy, sound therapies and nutrition. She works at Braintree Rehabilitation in Lynnfield, MA, and works as a consultant for a private school. She can be reached at bonjourmm@yahoo.com or www.beyoga4life.com. Emmy Vadnais, OTR/L, is nationally certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and is an American Board Certified Reflexologist. She teaches Guided Imagery, Energy Healing and Intuitive Development. She is in private practice in St. Paul, MN, and can be reached at emmy@emmyvadnais.com or www.emmyvadnais.com. Visit their Holistic Occupational Therapy page on Facebook for monthly holistic OT teleconferences discussing this emerging specialty.


 

OT is the perfect field to create a CAM presence. I have been an OTR for 27 years and have always said AOTA needs a curriculum that will produce an OT specialization that would be called "Integrative Occupational Therapy". I have integrated Osteopathic Manual Therapy (from 4 years of training at the Canadian College of Osteopathy), body mind integration techniques (from years of studying the science of the body mind connection to healing), Energy work (Healing Touch and a variety of other influences), and essential oils. I was able to practice this way both privately and in traditional medical facilities (a bit more challenging). My private practice was pain management focused and I marketed it as Integrative Pain Management. It's a blast to have so many tools to use, especially if you enjoy getting to the root cause of the issue. In the facilities, I never had a patient refuse treatment because I always had something relieving to offer first (after which they were then able to participate in their ADLs & such). I have a couple of entries on a blog, Castor Oil wraps are an awesome modality to add to your pain patient HP, if you would like to try them in your work you can see the instructions at: healthyyousolutions.blogspot.com

Michele Russell, OTR, HTCP
Colorado Springs...GO Bronco's!

Michele Russell,  OTR, HTCPAugust 19, 2014
Colorado Springs, CO



I'd love to know your Facebook page. I have been wanting to branch into the area of wellness, and have been trying to find a way to use my OT as part of that in my future. I would love to know about an organization, or support of that means. Thanks for being a ground-breaker!

TANYA GAUTHIER,  OTAugust 08, 2014
DENHAM SPGS, LA



Wow! this is great. I have an extensive alternative healing history from my "younger" years. I've been an OT for many years now and amd trying to get back a more meaningful work life. I want to integrate various spects of Holistic practices and OT and am still figuring out how to do this and if it is "legal" ...e.g. Medicare , etc, will cover it. I don't bill directly, but I do have to write up the chart notes that justify the treatments I provide. I would like to work for myself soon and not even deal with insurance reimbursements, but I don't know how much cash business is out there. Anyway... this article and all the comments are a big boost for me. Thanks!

Ravenna May 15, 2013
CA



Read all comments (10) >>


     

Email: *

Email, first name, comment and security code are required fields; all other fields are optional. With the exception of email, any information you provide will be displayed with your comment.

First * Last
Name:
Title Field Facility
Work:
City State
Location:

Comments: *
To prevent comment spam, please type the code you see below into the code field before submitting your comment. If you cannot read the numbers in the below image, reload the page to generate a new one.

Captcha
Enter the security code below: *

Fields marked with an * are required.

View the Latest from ADVANCE

 

Search Jobs

Go
 
 
 
http://www.advanceweb.com/jobs/search/employer/1015/hcr-manorcare.html
http://www.advanceweb.com/jobs/search/employer/1183/supplemental-health-care.html
http://occupational-therapy.advanceweb.com/Webinar/Editorial-Webinars/ADVANCE-OT-Webinars.aspx
http://shop.advanceweb.com/clearance.html
http://www.advanceweb.com/jobs/search/employer/263/yai-network.html
http://www.advanceweb.com/jobs/search/employer/1185/baycare-health-system.html
http://www.advanceweb.com/jobs/search/employer/3007/ebs-healthcare.html
http://www.advanceweb.com/jobs/search/employer/1936/five-star-quality-care-inc.html
http://www.advanceweb.com/jobs/search/employer/1505/holy-cross-hospital.html
http://www.advanceweb.com/jobs/search/employer/1428/shield-institute.html
http://www.advanceweb.com/jobs/search/employer/1049/george-washington-university-hospital.html
http://www.advanceweb.com/jobs/search/employer/2718/pennsylvania-hand-center.html