Occupational therapy practitioners are well trained to help clients look critically at everyday routines and examine how they affect their state of health and their ability to carry out what is important to them. "Occupational therapy can help people recognize how their substance use affects those roles that are most meaningful; it helps people explore and make those links, and move toward the occupational roles and patterns they want to achieve," says Stoffel. For example, if the role of parent is most important to a client, then he or she might learn how to re-parent in a way that boosts his or her parenting skills and simultaneously improves the skills needed to deal with the stresses of parenting without drinking.
Occupational therapy practitioners examine the habits and behaviors of clients that occur each day, throughout the week. They show clients how their behaviors and thoughts revolve around drugs or alcohol and how they lose their identity as they lose the roles most meaningful to them. Practitioners then construct or rebuild those occupational roles by determining what activities bring clients the most joy and sense of well-being-without drugs or alcohol.
The likelihood of someone struggling with substance abuse coming into contact with an occupational therapy practitioner depends entirely on the recovery program. Usually an occupational therapist will work with clients in a short-term rehabilitation program or a partial hospital program. However, an enlightened consumer who has a full understanding of occupational therapy's benefits and range of services can obtain help from an occupational therapist specializing in drug or alcohol abuse.
Occupational therapy goes beyond helping clients to stop drug use; it prepares clients to fill whatever void the substance leaves behind with productive occupation. According to Stoffel, "We want people to find the activities that are meaningful to them and at just the right level of challenge so that, as they redesign their lifestyle, they tap into those things that allow them to move into a state of well-being. This is where occupational therapy can really make a difference in helping people stay in long-term recovery."