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Overcoming Mental Health Challenges with Occupational Therapy

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St. Luke’s Occupational Therapist Andie Schnell, MS, OTR/L, works with a patient on kitchen skills at St. Luke’s 9th Avenue Suites.

How occupational therapists can help patients with anxiety, depression, sensory overwhelm and more in Duluth

“Mental health challenges can become a barrier to living the life you want,” said St. Luke’s Occupational Therapist Andie Schnell, MS, OTR/L. “That’s where occupational therapy can help.”

Occupational Therapy (OT) for mental health equips patients with effective coping strategies to overcome issues that are holding them back. While this does not replace working with a psychologist or psychiatrist, it can be a complimentary service.

“Mental health OT is a great support to traditional therapy services,” said Andie. “There is a shortage of mental health services in many areas right now. Mental health OT can provide patients with practical ways to cope with their symptoms while they wait for services or while they are participating in psychotherapy.

"Mental health OT is a functional approach to coping with mental health challenges. For example, I can teach a patient breathing exercises or other coping skills to help manage symptoms of anxiety, while a psychotherapist may work on the underlying issues of anxiety.”

From young children to older adults, mental health OT can help people dealing with many different issues.

This includes individuals who:

  • Struggle to initiate daily activities
  • Have a hard time keeping up with daily life tasks
  • Feel disengaged from their typical routines
  • Have difficulty with social participation and community integration
  • Feel overwhelmed by their senses

After an initial consultation, a person-centered treatment plan is created. A treatment plan can incorporate techniques such as relaxation exercises, stress management strategies, problem-solving skills, life-balance practices and cognitive behavioral tactics.

By empowering patients with healthy coping strategies, mental health OT helps them regain control. It also allows them to participate in the activities they find most meaningful.

“I love seeing patients participate in activities that make them feel fulfilled and happy,” said Andie. “Mental health OT can help a patient succeed with so many things. This includes self-cares, cleaning and managing their home, finding and maintaining employment, engaging in social or leisure activities, cooking, school participation and more.

“I want patients to know they don’t have to experience mental health challenges alone. We’ll take each step with you, one at a time.”

Referral required for this service. If you need one, talk to your primary care provider.
To establish care with a St. Luke’s primary care provider, call 218.249.4000 or find a clinic near you.