Using Mindfulness in OT Intervention — my ever-evolving opinion

updated: 2/8/2019

I date this because, my goal in this life is to evolve — to always be changing, learning, growing — to always be a student of this life. So naturally, by tomorrow, this opinion I will share with you may shift, change, evolve — I hope that it does, for this will mean I am shifting as well.

I write this at the one-year anniversary of me discovering and beginning my mindfulness practice. I have been intentionally seeking myself and healing through a mindfulness practice for an entire calendar year — and oh, what a journey it has been.

I have healed things and traveled through pains that I was previously terrified to touch. I’ve touched true emotions of sadness, joy, and yes — even true anger in their purest forms for the first time in my life. I have observed patterns I was stuck in subconsciously, due to old wounds and childhood traumas. It’s been a heavy and beautiful, challenging and rewarding, work.

This is me — finding mindful space in my meditation practice on a sunny Christmas day last year in Colorado — always a student…

When I was recording an episode of The Occupied Podcast, with Brock Cook — we started talking about a brochure I received in the mail advertising a two-day mindfulness course for occupational therapists. We asked the question, “Can OTs use mindfulness with clients if they do not practice mindfulness themselves?”

I left the question open during our podcast recording, and recently I posed the question to all my followers (mostly OTs) on the Life’s Occupation’s Instagram page. The overwhelming answer I got back was, “no” — they said, “no,” “nope,” “no you can’t do that,” “no that wouldn’t be safe,” — interesting…

After a year, I’ve just begun to feel slightly comfortable using my experience and my mindfulness with those around me — family, friends, and my occupational therapy clients. Which is why this “2-Day Mindfulness Course” offering really threw me.

What are these people teaching in two days — after I have been through weekly meetings with my teacher, Kristina, and a year of dedicated, challenging daily mindfulness practice, and I am just BEGINNING to feel ready to lead others and hold safe space for their mindfulness.

I turned to my teacher, who herself has been practicing mindfulness for 20+ years. Her response sums it up for me and her words feel good to sit in when I am considering using mindfulness with my clients —- she says, “Ah — I strongly believe and the research I’ve found is that it needs to be integrated and practiced on a daily level to then guide others best. A two day course is a great start — and as we (you) know from your work, it’s a more complex system”

For me, the integration portion of her message is the most important. You see, mindfulness is a process. First, there is awareness, then there is work that is done to integrate what you learn out of your awareness.

Which leads me to more questions, big questions;

How am I to hold and guide someone through anger and grief, if I myself have not held my own anger and grief?
How am I to hold and guide someone’s pain — emotional and physical, if I myself have not held my emotional and physical pain?

If I do not know myself, how can I maintain groundedness while diving into the deep of someone else’s journey — grounded enough to end that connection when the session is over and show up for the next client as fully as I did the last? (this is my current work and practice!)

And, this is my dilemma with mindfulness in OT practice.

It’s a dilemma I am constantly ebbing and flowing through, and sometimes battling with — on a daily basis. In my OT practice and my life — there are constantly opportunities and conversations I am ready for as a mindful practitioner, and even more consistently, opportunities I am not prepared for. I find beauty both moments — as my awareness means I am showing up to my mindfulness practice with a heightened awareness of the present moment and heightened awareness of my beautiful, newly formed skills. All of this while finding and maintaining my boundaries, which protect not only myself, but those I am serving.

This is why I (currently) believe that in order to safely utilize mindfulness with our clients, we first, need to have a daily, integrated, mindfulness practice — “Healer, Heal Thyself.”

Message me if you have your own mindfulness practice that you have been able to use in your client’s sessions. Message me if you feel you are ready to find a practice, or if you just have questions. I would love to connect. My practice changes my life daily, and I feel it changing my occupational therapy practice with every new client interaction and connection.

2 thoughts on “Using Mindfulness in OT Intervention — my ever-evolving opinion

  1. Thank you for this post Leah, I found it very thought provoking and insightful. I have similar thoughts on using mindfulness as an intervention with my clients (I work in a specialist perinatal mental health service just outside Lonfon). I have had a personal meditation practice for several years but would not “teach” my clients. I talk about mindfulness and coach individuals on accessing support and training, useful resources etc. But I don’t teach it or “do” it 1:1 – I feel nowhere near qualified although I’m looking into a mindfulness teaching qualification (definitely not a 2 day course!) but this would extend over a long period of time and isn’t cheap. Interestingly my psychology colleagues do use mindfulness but follow manuals and I think it’s a bit clunky ( sorry psych colleagues!). I do use a simple body scan at the beginning of a group I run in the community but I certainly wouldn’t call it mindfulness or meditation, rather I call it relaxation and grounding. I wish you well with your doctorate- in the UK we are sticking with undergrad or masters level entry to the profession – would love to practice in the US but with having a family that opportunity may not come along for me…

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