It is more common for OT internships to take place in environments such as hospitals, outpatient facilities, and rehab units where there is an emphasis on the physical rehabilitation of patients. A student might have the opportunity to work with behavioral or mental health patients somewhere like an inpatient psych unit, but those opportunities are more difficult to find and, vary drastically from the experience at a CMHC such as Trilogy.
A core principle of OT is practicing occupation based therapy in the patient’s natural environment, since that is where they normally do activities of daily living. However, when students provide supervised treatment in inpatient settings they instead simulate the patient’s home environment. Students working out of CMHCs often won’t need to simulate home environments though, since the therapies and interventions they offer can be provided within the client’s natural environment. Laura Cuttone, an OT student at Rush University, highlights how Trilogy’s client-centered approach to service provision makes such a big difference. She says that rather than having to mimic reaching for items on a tall grocery store shelf for a client who has limited mobility, she accompanies the client to the store and directly provide strategies to overcome obstacles on the spot.
Differences between working in the mental and physical health sectors go beyond the sites of service provision. Laura describes her first internship in physical rehabilitation and said, “I would begin by reviewing the patient’s chart to learn more about the individual’s condition, what they are recovering from [a broken hip, a knee replacement], and provide treatment based on the doctor’s orders. When working with individuals in mental health, the obstacles a client faces due to their diagnoses might present differently and thus require a different intervention.”
Mental illness can be quite complicated for OT since it varies for each client and is often influenced by other factors such as trauma. Trilogy understands that there is a steep learning curve for OT students who might have only had a few lectures related to trauma. During orientation, interns are included in trainings for harm reduction, trauma informed care, and other relevant topics. Additionally, supplemental information regarding mental and behavioral health disorders and relevant evidence-based research are regularly made available. Jamie Rotter supervises the OT interns, and emphasizes the importance of providing these resources to students in preparation for the sometimes emotional and traumatic patient histories. Rotter says, “It forces them [OT students] to think about the language and behaviors they use when working with clients. In this process, they are not only learning how to be a therapist, but also the interpersonal skills needed when working with individuals who have a history of trauma and complicated backgrounds.”
Laura has learned a lot, and says she embraces the fast-paced environment. When she first learned about OT at Trilogy and its services through a presentation at her university, she was immediately drawn to the emphasis the organization places on clients’ own goals and the opportunities it affords them. She recently witnessed this first hand. A client she sees suffers from depression and recently told her he often feels idle and isolated since he struggles to fill his day with activities. The client expressed great interest in finding employment so that he could fill his days with new engagements and more purposeful activities. In this regard, Trilogy offers comprehensive services for clients and serves as that direct link to resources to support
The program’s unique model of integrating ancillary supports and being client-centered often piques the interests of students and in the past, OT students have returned to conduct research based at Trilogy. Career opportunities are also available to those students interested in the field of mental health. In addition to roles in the OT program, OT students as well as those studying in other fields have found interesting work as Recovery Counselors or Team Leaders here at Trilogy. If you or someone you know is currently looking for a career opportunities in the field of mental health, a full list of open positions is available on our careers page.