The Art and Science of Everyday Living is an interview series with innovative occupational therapists.
We are shining a spotlight on OT and how you can benefit.
Our next OT incorporates mindfulness meditation for chronic pain and mental health into her OT practice.
If you have an invisible health condition like chronic pain, depression or anxiety, you may find pieces of your own story reflected in the words of the occupational therapists interviewed in this series. You may even find a tip or two to help you live your life with more ease, joy and meaning and foster a renewed sense of hope.
As always, please speak with your own health care provider for individualized advice before applying any new strategy. If you need further support and the OT profiled lives in your area, feel free to reach out for more information.
We are glad you are here!
Sarah Good is a community based occupational therapist, case manager and mindfulness meditation teacher. She uses a client centered, recovery oriented approach to psychosocial rehabilitation, often incorporating mindfulness-based interventions into her occupational therapy practice.
In order to build a more environmentally sustainable practice and minimize travel costs, Sarah focuses on downtown Ottawa and sees many of her clients on foot or by bicycle. Sarah is currently the Topic Editor for the Private Practice column in Occupational Therapy Now (published by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists).
I discovered that Sarah and I had a shared interest in supporting people with invisible or chronic health conditions to manage the stresses of life on find-an-ot.ca. I was excited to learn that she also had a wealth of experience in mindfulness and shared interests in occupational therapy approaches for sleep, mental health and chronic pain. I am delighted that she is here to share her knowledge and perspective with us.
Over to you, Sarah!
How do you describe your role as an OT to the people/clients that you work with?
I describe my role to clients as a person who can help them get back to what they need to do or want to do. I explain that I can help them build healthy routines and develop adaptive coping skills.
In your practice, what are some common struggles or symptoms that you support people to adapt to, manage, or overcome?
My clients are usually facing a variety of struggles, often a combination of chronic pain and mental health challenges.
Common struggles include sleeping, handling stress, managing a household and completing paperwork. Frequently, my clients are experiencing social isolation, lack a routine, are overwhelmed or are not managing self-maintenance activities (such as exercise, healthy eating, medical follow-ups).
Are there strategies that you find yourself mentioning often to clients that someone reading this could apply in their life today?
- walking regularly
- getting out in nature
- learning mindfulness meditation
- writing in a journal or starting a gratitude journal
- pacing tasks
- enjoying library resources
Favourite or most recommended online resources, books or apps?
- The Pain Detective by Dr. Finestone
- Mindfulness Starts Here by Lynette Monteiro and Frank Musten
- Meditations and books on Self-Compassion by Chris Germer
- Meditations and books on pain with a mindfulness perspective by Vidyamala Burch
- The Insight Timer (which includes meditations from Lynette Moneiro, Chris Germer and Vidyamala Burch)
- Qcard (an app to help remember appointments, tasks and routines)
What do clients most often express appreciation for about your perspective as an OT?
As an OT, I can meet clients where they are (often their homes or workplace). Once I have established a rapport in a place where they feel safe, I can go with them to new places (such a library, nature path or yoga class).
Clients also appreciate that we can get tasks done during the appointments (such as returning phone calls, sorting papers or doing a household task). Being and doing with my clients often helps them go places and do tasks which would otherwise cause anxiety or get forgotten.
What area of emerging research are you most excited about currently? How do you think it will shape your OT practice and the lives of the people you work with in the years to come?
The benefits of contemplative practices such as mindfulness meditation and yoga, and the benefits of time in nature.
I had a personal mindfulness meditation practice for several years and noticed the benefits personally. In about 2010, I became very impressed with the research into the benefits of mindfulness meditation for people with mental health issues and pain management.
In particular, I was impressed by people’s improved coping skills even when symptoms remained. As an evidence-based OT, I felt there was enough evidence to encourage my clients to learn it. Later, I took the training to become a teacher in order to be able to directly use the practices with my clients. One way I have learned about new research and developments in the area is the Present Moment podcasts.
How has being an occupational therapist influenced how you live your life?
I have wanted to be an occupational therapist since I learned about the profession as a teenager. It fits with who I am and how I live my life. As such, I feel that I can weave my learning as an OT into my own life naturally.
I developed a regular mindfulness meditation practice shortly after graduating as an occupational therapist. Having this practice has helped me to show compassion towards myself and others and not get overwhelmed by the pain I see in my clients daily. I believe that this practice has also helped me handle other areas of my life more skilfully, such as parenting and handling everyday challenges.
I endeavour to embrace what I recommend to my clients in my daily life. As such, I spend lots of time in nature. I have developed a practice that allows me to walk or bike to many of my client’s homes.
I have learnt much about human resilience from my clients and gained an appreciation of the fragility of life.
Occupational therapists believe that the ‘occupations’ we engage in are essential to our health and well-being. What are some occupations that shape who you are, bring meaning to your life and/or restore you?
Being a mother and a partner are huge roles in my life. The occupations involved in raising children have greatly shaped who I am and bring meaning to my life.
However, I also need occupations that restore me. Reading, meditation, journal writing, time with friends and outdoor activities restore me.
Three sensory experiences that bring you a sense of calm?
- Walking in the woods
- Cuddling one of my children
What core values guide you in your life and in your work?
- Compassion for others and for myself
- Social connection
Do you have a phrase, mantra or strategy that helps you show up and live brave, even when life is difficult?
“Every stage passes”… This can be hard to believe when in a particularly encompassing stage of life. However, the difficult parts of our lives and the wonderful parts do pass. The challenge is to appreciate the wonderful parts even when there is also difficulty.
Words of wisdom or encouragement for anyone reading this who is struggling with a health condition or a life transition?
Respect your limits. Show yourself some loving-kindness by speaking to yourself as you would speak to a friend going through your health condition or life transition.
Sarah Good is a Registered Occupational Therapist in Ontario with more than 14 years experience working in hospital, school and community settings. Since 2007, she has worked in the Ottawa area treating clients in their homes and communities. She focuses her practice on downtown Ottawa, including the Glebe, Centretown, Sandy Hill, Old Ottawa South and Old Ottawa East. Sarah has completed an intensive training program at the Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic in order to use mindfulness techniques to work with her clients. She has been trained in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. motivational interviewing, and uses a recovery-oriented approach to psychosocial rehabilitation, including the use of Action Over Inertia. She uses a client-centred approach to care based on current evidence, utilizing the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure as part of her assessment process to help clients identify their goals. Sarah also works as a Case Manager and can be reached at sarahgood.OT@gmail.com or you can visit her website at www.sarahgoodOT.ca
Sarah teaches Mindfulness-Based Symptom Management (Pain and Chronic Illness Management) at the Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic. Her next course will be offered in September 2017. It will run on Wednesday mornings from 10-12 for eight weeks beginning September 13, 2017. For more information and details on upcoming courses, visit the Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic.