Understanding the Role of Occupational Therapy in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Operational Stress Injuries

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and operational stress injuries (OSI) are a complex conditions caused by traumatic and distressing events such as crimes, natural disasters, accidents, war or other threats to life or safety. Nightmares, flashbacks, or overwhelming and recurring thoughts of the event can interfere with normal life for months. The symptoms of PTSD cause significant distress that impact social and occupational participation to a degree that is clinically significant (APA, 2013). Difficulty is often evident in the person’s ability to functionally engage in self- and home-care activities, education and work roles, and social and leisure interests. The ability to develop and maintain relationships is often negatively affected.post-traumatic-stress-disorderbrain.jpg

Occupational Therapy practitioners are qualified mental health professionals who assist people experiencing barriers to engage in meaningful roles and occupations to increase their participation, health, and wellness (American Occupational Therapy Association [AOTA], 2010, 2014). Studies show that OT is particularly effective in providing those suffering from PTSD with the coping and management skills needed to conduct their daily activities. They work with individuals of all age ranges, in all phases of
recovery, by helping them and their caregivers identify and address recovery-based needs and strategies within the context of real-life demands (AOTA, 2014).

Occupational Therapists work with individuals to help identify strengths, values, interests, resources and challenges in order to implement plans that address family commitments, employment and leisure activities. Occupational therapy looks beyond the physical and mental disability and works with their clients and their family to help them engage in the meaningful activities of their lives (CAOT).

Some examples of occupational therapy interventions include:

  • Work with clients and their families to identify the occupations and activities that are important for family, personal and work life.
  • Help to plan, initiate and track short and long term goals that enable participation in those activities.
  • Help clients increase their participation in meaningful roles and activities in a variety of ways including: create and use a daily schedule to identify triggers and helpful strategies, identify and obtain the type and amount of supports necessary for successful participation, and implement exposure techniques.
  • Address trauma triggers and warning signs; symptom stabilization; and learning new coping, health, and wellness strategies (e.g., stress management and relaxation techniques).
  • Provide training to clients, caregivers, and interdisciplinary staff in adaptive or modified self- and home care, work, or school-based strategies, so as not to inadvertently trigger hypersensitivity patterns, dissociation, flooding, or flashbacks.
  • Perform assessments to help understand specific challenges (concentration, attention, anxiety, impulsivity, divided attention).
  • Teach practical, non-pharmaceutical ways of coping with adverse symptoms e.g. stress, pain, and sleep disruption.
  • Help replace unhealthy activities, such as substance abuse, by increasing engagement in healthy, meaningful activities.
  • Use “hands on” approaches by: going to the individual’s home or workplace, meeting with the individual’s family and/or employer to facilitate engagement in target occupations.
  • Advocate for clients.

Why Occupational Therapy?  Occupational therapy practitioners recognize the value of engaging in meaningful roles and daily activities to maintain and/or regain health and well-being.

Call 613-766-3503 to book a free 15 minute consultation if you have any additional questions. I’m here to help.


Concussion in Women & Girls

When there is an opportunity to absorb information provided by experts in the field of concussion rehabilitation and recovery, I jump at the chance.  I attended the first conference ever held in Canada focusing specifically on concussions occurring in women and girls.


In my practice, I had definitely noticed that a higher percentage of my clients suffering from a prolonged recovery from their concussion or Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS), were women.

Was it just me? Is it just Kingston, Ontario? Is there something in our water?

Turns out, no.  There is a growing amount of evidence to indicate that women are at a higher risk for experiencing Post Concussion Syndrome.  The research out there right now is trying to figure out WHY?

Here is a summary of some of the really interesting information presented at the conference.

  • What increases your risk of experiencing Post Concussion Syndrome?
    • having more severe concussion symptoms at onset of injury  
    • having a greater number of symptoms at onset of injury
    • having a history of depression or anxiety  
    • your sex (women > men)
    • having a history of migraines or insomnia
    • having a history of ADHD
    • your age
  • There are many factors that are currently being researched to figure out why more women take longer to recover:
    • Physical factors – head and neck size and strength
    • Cognitive factors – different cognitive strengths than males
    • Stress factors – women are more likely to experience chronic or daily stress (more women working, with an average of 8/10 women still completing the majority of housekeeping tasks)
    • Sleep – women have a higher incidence of insomnia
    • Pre-existing issues – women more likely to experience pre-injury migraines
    • Hormones – brain injury interfering with the Pituitary gland which controls our hormones

Conclusion of the conference? We need more research, but we can’t ignore what the current research is saying.

Treatment for women and girls with concussion should be unique to their pre-existing issues, the nature of their injury, their symptoms and their individual recovery path.   I will be incorporating this updated research into my practice to optimize the recovery path of the women and girls I work with, who are suffering from a  concussion.

Occupational Therapy and Massage Therapy – they work SO well together!

It is amazing to have so many qualified health care professionals in Kingston to help with a variety of health issues including mental health, cognitive health and physical health. An effective way to facilitate recovery or promote health is to engage in treatment that is complementary.  At Full Circle Health Network, we are offering a Promotion that encourages people to take advantage of treatment approaches that help you get better, faster OR help you optimize your health.


Rebecca Vinkle and Joey Su at Full Circle are incredible Massage Therapists with specialties in pre-post natal treatment, work related injuries, musculoskeletal injuries (neck, back, shoulder etc), pain and dysfunction.  Combined with Occupational Therapy to focus on life transitions, workplace ergonomics, and stress-related illness, anxiety or burnout, treatment can help get you back to living your best life sooner.

Stay tuned for videos that will talk more about RMT and OT working together!

Check out the promotion

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Book Now by calling 613-766-3503

Mindfulness and Meditation, There’s an App for that

There are some wonderful resources to guide us to be more reflective, quieter, calmer, and present in our every day.   But it can be overwhelming to sift through them and find the right one for you.

Here are six free apps that help you improve your focus, fight anxiety, sleep better, and more.  Give them a try and find the one that best works for you.

The app features more than 4,000 guided meditations from over 1,000 teachers—on topics like self-compassion, nature, and stress.

A meditation app with a simple premise: Every day, you get a new, personalized, three-minute meditation.

Omvana gives you access to many meditation sounds, music, and guided sessions with meditation experts. Focus options include: mindfulness, stress, relaxation, sleep, and more.

Stop, Breathe & Think –  helps you monitor the highs and lows of your weeks by having you “check in” at different times of the day with your moods.

If calm is what you need, Calm is the app for you. It starts you out with a seven-day program. This is a great way for beginners to start meditation.

Headspace makes it easy for people just learning the art of meditation. Their level one course features easy, 10-minute sessions for each day that will help you get into the habit of meditating regularly.  10 free tracks and then it’s a yearly subscription.

Combine a mindfulness practice with healthy doses of nature to improve your overall well-being.  


I have a Concussion. What are my Options?

Kingston, it’s here (well almost!)…our much anticipated SPRING!

One of the things I love about Kingston, is that we are an active community and as the spring sun starts to shine, our activity level will ramp up.   From the Lemoine’s Point hikers, to avid cyclists, sports enthusiasts or patio hoppers, Kingston will start to come alive!


There are many sports that have known risks for concussions, but concussions can happen in sports, from a car accident or by a random accident.  A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) and is caused by excessive, rapid movement of the brain inside the skull.     You do not need to have lost consciousness to have suffered from a concussion.


Many concussion symptoms resolve within 10-14 days with the remaining lingering symptoms resolving within 3 months. There is more and more information out there about the signs and symptoms of a concussion – helping you answer the question “Do I have a Concussion?”.  We know more about the importance of brain rest, graded activity, reduced screen time, and physical rehabilitation options.

But what happens when the symptoms don’t go away?




We have some of the best resources in Kingston for the management of the Physical symptoms of concussion.  What about resources for the Cognitive, Emotional and Sleep symptoms of concussion??  They exist!  Occupational Therapy is one of those resources and my aim is to draw awareness to Occupational Therapy as an effective treatment approach for post concussion rehabilitation.


Occupational Therapists can deliver evidence-based treatment for the management of the many complexities of a concussion.

The symptom picture is unique to each person suffering from a concussion.

  • Are you feeling so tired that it is hard to get through the day?
  • Does it feel impossible to concentrate when there are many conversations happening around you?
  • Are you feeling sad, overwhelmed, or anxious?  Do you keep feeling like you’re at the end of your rope?
  • Are you napping away large chunks of your day or having difficulty getting to sleep at night?
  • Does your headache make it hard to focus on anything for long periods of time?
  • Do loud or bright environments make you feel worse?
  • Do you find yourself staying at home more and avoiding friends and family?

Occupational therapist’s have the expertise to assess and treat these struggles and more.

Occupational therapy offers individualized assessment and treatment focused on helping you return to the activities that are most important to you.

Suffering from a concussion is scary, but there are experienced health care providers in our local community of Kingston that are here to help.


Check out the Concussion Recovery page for more information about what you can expect from an Occupational Therapy assessment and treatment (Concussion Recovery) or give me a call for a free consultation.  613-766-3503

Schedule an Appointment here:  Book Now