Occupational Therapy & Low Intensity CBT

If you are a little confused by the term “occupational therapy” you are certainly not alone as “occupation” is a term commonly associated with work but in this sense it refers to how you function.  Occupational therapy recognises that any illness can impact our functioning, which in turn can impact our sense of wellbeing, identity and purpose.  The aim of Occupational therapy is to determine the areas of functioning you want to improve, identify the barriers impacting these areas of functioning and work collaboratively to develop strategies to help overcome these barriers.


Possible goals to work on may be:

  • To be able to return to work or any role outside of work which is important to you

  • To develop a daily routine which supports your wellbeing

  • To be able to leave the house to shop, exercise, see friends

  • To increase the amount of social contact you have with others

  • To return to hobbies or interests which have fallen by the wayside.


Potential barriers/things getting in the way of you achieving your functional goals may be:

  • Specific symptoms experienced

  • Experiencing social isolation

  • An overriding lack of motivation leading you to feel very stuck and without a clear starting point

  • A change in life circumstances which is very difficult to adjust to

  • Sensory factors such as experiencing sensory overload at times

  • Ongoing life stressors

  • Environmental factors such as an unsupportive work environment.

Potential strategies to overcome these barriers could include:

  • Use of stress management techniques

  • Use of psycho-educational tools to develop coping strategies to manage specific symptoms

  • Developing practical strategies to manage areas of self care, eg: developing a sleep routine

Low intensity CBT such as behavioural activation for depression or graded exposure to anxiety:

  • Mood and activity diaries

  • Developing a sensory toolkit

  • Developing your own stabilisation and grounding techniques

  • Work based wellness and recovery action plans

Relapse prevention plans


Occupational therapy can be helpful for a wide range of mental health problems such as stress, emotional regulation, anxiety, depression, sensory needs and is unique in that we are dually trained in both physical and mental health.  The value of understanding the interplay of both has gained a lot of prevalence in recent years, particularly in work around trauma and stress. 

Occupational therapy offers a broad, holistic approach, which focuses on the actions someone can take to improve their lives in that moment.  In practice, this means that we would typically spend less time making sense of problems and more time thinking about what can practically be done to overcome them.  This can be a highly effective stand alone therapy but can also be a good starting point for therapy for those not wanting to delve too deeply into processing past experiences at this stage, for those wanting to start psychological therapy from a more stable base than they are currently at, and for those who have completed psychological therapy and would like some additional practical support to implement what they have learnt.

© 2018 Sussex Psychological Therapy Centre