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.”