Q&A with Occupational Therapist, Theresa Groeschl

What are some examples of why a child or infant would need Occupational Therapy?

The most common reasons children or infants would need an Occupational Therapist are to receive treatment related to an autism spectrum disorder, a developmental delay, or a sensory processing disorder. Like adults, children may also benefit from Occupational Therapy services following an injury such as a fracture or traumatic brain injury.

How does a parent know that their child needs to have an Occupational Therapy evaluation?

Typically, an Occupational Therapy evaluation is needed if a child has delays in achieving developmental milestones or a child has difficulty participating in or completing every day activities. If parents notice some of these concerns, they should contact the child’s doctor to set up an appointment and discuss the concerns. If Occupational Therapy is appropriate, the doctor will send a referral for Occupational Therapy to the Rehabilitation Department.

What are some methods used by an Occupational Therapist to treat children?

Occupational Therapists use a variety of techniques to treat children based upon a child’s specific needs. We often modify or adapt meaningful activities to allow children to engage in the task while building the skills that they need to become independent in everyday activities. Training parents and caregivers in these modifications and adaptations is another important method in treating children. This training provides families with activities that they can perform at home to further improve their child’s skills.
How is Occupational Therapy beneficial for a Veteran experiencing chronic pain?

During my internship at the VA, I worked with several Veterans that were trying to manage chronic pain while overcoming addiction. Due to their substance abuse history, opioid pain medications were often not an option for these Veterans. I helped teach alternative pain management techniques such energy conservation and joint protection techniques, guided imagery, and meditation. I also educated Veterans on the benefits of and how to use heating pads or ice packs to manage their pain. Through practice with these alternative techniques many of the Veterans I worked with had success in managing their pain while maintaining their sobriety.

What would be an example of treatment used to help a patient dealing with chronic pain?

The first step to treating chronic pain is to better understand the pattern of pain. As an Occupational Therapist, I am interested in what time of day the pain is at its worst/best as well as what activities provoke or ease the pain. Following this brief interview, I may introduce the patient to guided imagery or meditation. I also provide education on proper use of heat or cold to manage pain and joint protection and energy conservation techniques to prevent exacerbations of pain.

In what way would Occupational Therapy help a Veteran dealing with substance abuse?

As an Occupational Therapy student at a residential substance abuse treatment program at the VA, my main focus was introducing Veterans to sober leisure activities. Many of the Veterans’ leisure activities involved substance use, so I strived to help the Veterans find fun and meaningful activities that they could participate in that did not involve drugs or alcohol. Another area in which I helped Veterans dealing with substance abuse was screening for and providing compensatory strategies for memory impairments since this can be a result of prolonged substance abuse.

When a patient comes to see you, what information should they bring?

Occupational Therapy is a client-centered service therefore the most important thing patients can bring is something they already have – knowledge of their daily life and routines.

What is the largest misconception you think patients have about occupational therapy?

The largest misconception patients have about occupational therapy seems to be that I am here to help them find a job. Although I can work with my patients to improve skills they may use at work, my main focus is to improve their independence with everyday activities – even those that do not involve paid employment.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give patients to improve their overall health?

Make concrete goals for yourself that reflect meaningful aspects of your life. Goal setting can be motivating and allows us to feel a sense of accomplishment. Achieving these goals can give us a sense of purpose and success, which in turn helps our overall health. We can even set specific health-related goals to focus on areas in which we can change to help us manage an illness or chronic condition.

If folks wanted additional health information about occupational therapy, what are some available resources?

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has numerous resources related to Occupational Therapy. The “About Occupational Therapy” tab on the AOTA website (aota.org) provides resources and information regarding different areas of Occupational Therapy including children and youth, healthy living, mental health, and aging. The AOTA website also has a series of Fact Sheets that describe the role of Occupational Therapy in various practice areas.