Reliance on medication in Irish Mental Health

While it is important not to dismiss the role medication has in managing mental health it is striking the amount of clients who contact us upset at being prescribed medication without any structured form of assessment.

Many of these clients are upset they are being put on medication first instead of getting offered counselling or alternative supports.  In many of these cases  NICE guidelines actually concur with these client’s views by highlighting that medication should not be the first step in terms of recommended best practice.

We also get a lot of enquiries from those trying to come off medication struggling to find resources beyond their GP appointment.  The below article demonstrates the disparity in investment between medication & counselling in primary care.  It is also worth noting that counselling in primary care (CIPC) is only available on a short term basis to medical card holders leaving many clients struggling with the costs of private therapy generally not covered by private health insurers.

The increase in discussion and awareness about mental health is very welcome but there is a long way to go in terms of seeing the same level of improvement in actual services, supports and resources for clients outside medication.

Occupational Therapy & Mental Health

What does an Occupational Therapist (OT) do?

An  Occupational Therapy intervention can be invaluable to a person’s well-being but the reality is not enough people in Ireland know what OT’s do or what OT services are available to them, specifically in terms of Mental Health.

What is Mental Health OT?

Mental Health OT can offer support if your mental health interferes with your ability to do the activities necessary for living your life.

For  example

  • If social anxiety prevents you from meeting friends, forming relationships or going to work.
  • If depression stops you from getting to your exercise class or your GP appointment.
  • If issues around your physical health are putting a strain on your mental health

A Mental Health OT can  intervene to assess what difficulties a client is having with their routine and support them to manage the mental health challenges  while living a meaningful life.

OT’s work holistically alongside a person with the perspective that the person, occupation and environment are all interlinked. OT’s will address each of these areas with you to ensure that all the barriers to living a meaningful life are being worked on.

How is OT different from seeing a Counsellor or a psychologist?

  1. An OT can meet you wherever you need  to meet  e.g. at work, at home, at the local café, in the library and so on. By engaging in occupational therapy in a real life scenario you have the opportunity to actively work on your goals in a safe way. Your goals will drive where and when the meetings happen.
  2. For example, let’s imagine that your goal is to be able to meet a friend for a coffee. Currently your experience of social anxiety prevents you from doing so. Your OT may meet you at home over several sessions to help you to learn about anxiety (what are your triggers, warning signs, management strategies, relaxation approaches etc) so that you can eventually work towards leaving your home and meeting your OT for walk, then maybe outside the coffee shop, then inside, and eventually supporting you to meet that friend in the local coffee shop.
  3. Like a counsellor, psychotherapist or psychologist, a Mental Health  OT can help you to engage in “talk therapy” however this isn’t the main focus of the sessions. Counselling & Psychotherapy are an incredibly valuable process for lots of people, but not for everyone. OT’s work in collaboration with other healthcare professionals so that a person’s entire needs are being met.

Talk Therapy Dublin have linked in with Anchor Therapy to provide a Mental Health OT option for certain clients.

Mental Health OT’s work as part of the Community Mental Health teams in the HSE and in some NGO’s around Ireland. To learn more about OT in Ireland go to