Occupational Therapy Intervention in Eating Disorder Treatment

Orri’s specialist Occupational Therapy team held a webinar for healthcare professionals earlier this month. The event explored the occupational therapy processes and interventions in eating disorder recovery.

Featuring as the third event in Orri’s CPD series, the webinar was collaboratively led by Max, Service Director, Kendra, Head of Therapies, Linda, Occupational Therapist, and Viktoriya, Occupational Therapist.

The webinar covered:

– What role Occupational Therapists play in eating disorder treatment

– Assessments and models of treatment

– Examples of occupational therapy processes at Orri

Missed it? Not to worry, we have the recording of the webinar below…

Occupational Therapy’s role in eating disorder treatment

Occupational Therapists (OT’s for short) make a unique contribution to treatment of eating disorders, as this approach focuses on recovery in a functional ability, engagement in meaningful occupations, communities and environment, participation in life roles and providing client-centred and occupation based interventions.

At Orri, as part of our clinical treatment in OT practice, we support clients and their families with building upon the following:

  • Skill-based group sessions
  • Supermarket/food shopping
  • Social meals
  • Body Image work
  • Time management and routine
  • Return to school/work
  • Emotion regulation tool kit

“Our work helps our clients explore their thoughts, beliefs and feelings behind the eating disorder. We do this both individually and in groups and use education, creative activities, worksheets to facilitate this process.

The main goal here is to empower them to believe they do have the resources to cope with discomfort and distress, so they no longer need their eating disorder to help them feel safe and in control.” – Kendra

You asked us your questions. Our OT team share their answers.

Attendees of our webinar asked questions based on Orri’s approach in treatment. So, as promised, the answers and resources are shared below.

1. I am an OT working with a young woman who is underweight but really missing her football group and the sense of belonging this gives her. How would you safely negotiate this with her considering such a low weight and dangers of exercise? 

We would suggest to work within a multidisciplinary team to look at managing physical risk. It could help to explore alternative leisure occupations that might meet similar occupational needs whilst towards return to exercise. We’d also recommend to use the LEAP model, to help with psychoeducation.

2. Could you recommend a good book or resource for a student OT to read, regarding OT interventions and eating disorders?

Of course! Below are our recommended reads:

3. How do you use creative arts in eating disorders? 

We utilise creative arts in much of our OT work. We use creative expressive mediums, such as painting, poetry, journalling, to encourage the non-verbal expression of feelings. These are to aid the client to focus on the process rather than the end product.

All activities help to encourage:

  • Mindfulness
  • Spontaneity – for example, when experimenting with colour and shape
  • and challenge perfectionism – by only providing paint and not pencils, erasers, rulers

We can also suggest creative activities, such as allowing a client to draw their safe place; to write a poem about how they feel today/in their relationships and friendships; and journal to identify their strengths; or a client can write a compassionate letter to themselves.

4. Do you have an example of a group timetable? This is always the challenge I find in our place – is what to offer and how often? 

At Orri, our timetable changes weekly depending on client needs and themes that are coming up within the building. The timetable should focus on providing a balanced structure which meets all the client’s needs as much as possible  – eg: self-care, mental stimulation, physical needs, social needs, creative, relaxation and spiritual. This allows us to keep on top of the planning.

The groups can at a fixed time each day but the theme can change each week.

For example – 

Mornings: Check in and support followed by educational group (such as, exploring anxiety, communication skills, dialectics etc)

Afternoon: Creative groups, physical groups (such as, yoga, a walk) and finally check out for the day and prepare for the evening.  Exposure Therapy can be included, if possible, during these groups

5. How do you transition a client from regular attendance e.g. 5 days a week to not attending the unit?

What make Orri unique is the use of a stepped approach to treatment. This means that the intensity and duration of a client’s programme is unique to them and evolves with them over time, supporting their needs at their pace.

As an OT, it is our role to support the client with a plan and balanced routine for the days they are not in therapy, including the evenings and weekends. For, we understand empty time can be most challenging.

It sits within the OT team to plan for and explore new occupations with the client, and to help restore engagement in occupations they used to enjoy. We could identify work around balancing leisure, self-care and productivity, all the while maintaining and protecting the client’s recovery progress and persona needs.

6. Do you use the KAWA model for creative narrative work? 

We use use elements of the model when supporting clients to imagine their life worth living goals. The KAWA model can also be used at the initial interview when supporting clients to describe their experiences of not being able to engage in occupations fully.

If you’d like copies of the presentation slides or would like to find out more about Occupational Therapy with eating disorder treatment here at Orri, we welcome you to email your questions to ask@orri-uk.com.

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