Occupational Therapy Supporting Mental Health

Occupational therapy supports Sad woman sitting on a bench with mental health issues

How does Occupational Therapy support Mental Health?

Occupational Therapy plays a vital role in supporting Mental Health. When people experience mental illness, it can be a confusing and distressing time. Often the ability to carry out usual routines and activities can become challenging.

Accessing support to participate in daily activities is a vital part of managing mental health. Support allows individuals to realize their potential, cope with the normal stresses of life, and work productively.

Occupational therapists provide this support and adopt a client centred perspective. This means we work with individuals to identify activities in their life that have become challenging. OTs then problem solve ways to help clients re-engage with these activities.


  • Explore - Your Occupational Therapist explores the environment in which the challenge is occurring (home, school, community etc..)
  • Understand – They build an understanding of their client’s current day to day routines and how mental health symptoms are impacting daily life.
  • Assess – They assess the skills and strengths of the client.
  • Solution- They develop tailored solutions to overcome barriers and re-engage in life activities, together with providing education to family and carers.

REAL LIFE EXAMPLES of Occupational Therapy Supporting Mental Health

A common symptom of mental health illness is a lack of motivation to engage in every day activities. This can include getting out of bed, maintaining hygiene. Our OTs will assess our client's areas of interest (e.g.: enjoys being in nature, sport, seeing friends) and the roles the person wants to engage in (e.g.: being a parent, partner, friend, coach etc..). A schedule of activities and/ or supports will be tailored to assist the person to engage in their chosen activities. It might start by adding one small, achievable activity per day. This could begin by walking to the end of the street and continue to build from there.

Some activities such as shopping, group social settings or cooking can be too stressful or overwhelming for an individual.  Our OTs will be able to assist the client to break down those activities into small steps. This reduces the anxiety and increases their sense of achievement. Occupational therapists can reduce the stress arising from activities by changing the environment. For example, shopping at a smaller supermarket at a time when it's not busy. Education about general stress reduction techniques may also be provided. This might include mindfulness, learning to say ‘no’ and using ‘to do lists’.

Occupational Therapists form part of a support team for those living with mental illness. They provide valuable skills to engage in daily activities to live life to it's potential. For NDIS clients, more information can be found here regarding accessing mental health resources.

Have more questions? Contact our customer service team to discuss your specific needs.

If you need crisis support, we recommend you contact:

Life Line or

Beyond Blue