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Occupational Therapist Deb Making Connections: Kittens and Drumming

Once Upon a Time…

When Deb was young, she read a book about a boy who had been severely burned. In the book, the boy went to see an Occupational Therapist as part of his treatment, piquing Deb’s curiosity to learn more. She was interested to find out that along with helping others, Occupational Therapy involved a unique mix of art and science.

Landing in Her Current Role at CMHA

Before landing in her current role at CMHA, Deb had the opportunity to explore many different facets of the profession, including occupational health, dementia, as well as long-term and community care. Today, as an Occupational Therapist in the Community Connections program, she assists clients in their recovery through skills building, leisure activities, program development, group planning and community involvement. She is also part of the launch of the new Recovery College Model, working alongside our clients to co-produce sessions that will be offered to our community as an evidence-based model of providing service.

Community Involvement and Drumming

Before the pandemic, Deb could be found helping her clients get involved in the Community Volunteer Program, running a weekly drumming group and more. The Community Volunteer Program involves partnering with other organizations in our community, such as the OSPCA, Yellow Brick House and Habitat for Humanity, helping clients develop skills and get better integrated with the community.

Pandemic Insight and Upsides

Although COVID has changed many things, Deb has been enjoying helping clients adjust to online programming, which encourages them to build skills (coping strategies, assertiveness, wellness and mindfulness), participate in fun activities (games, music and art) and even getting involved in unique opportunities like the High Notes Choir, which brings together a group of people touched by mental illness to sing online.

Despite the fact that some clients have experienced barriers moving to virtual service, Deb also mentioned that there have been many benefits, including the opportunity for clients to attend sessions from all locations (some are now even participating five days a week), reducing their need to find transportation, as well as preserving the energy usually involved in getting to programming, so that they can be fully engaged in the session. Many clients have remarked that their favourite days of the week are Thursdays when the new Community Connections calendars come out and Monday when programming starts again.

The Importance of Occupational Therapy Month

Deb believes that Occupational Therapy Month is important because even though people know about the many other therapists in the healthcare system, many have never heard of occupational therapy. She also thinks that this yearly event helps to raise awareness of what Occupational Therapists do and show others how by pursuing this career, you can make a huge difference in helping people to live life on their own terms.

grey kitten with paw being held and sitting in a lap

Another Story from Deb’s Work

As part of our community volunteering program, a group of Community Connections members go to the OSPCA on Friday afternoons (or used to pre-COVID), where we spent part of our volunteer time socializing cats that are available for adoption. There was one particular cat that was very scared of people (which is a concern if the goal is to get adopted) and would not come out of the box at all. Similar to this cat, one of the members attending this program was very quiet and very hesitant to engage with other people, however seemed to have a magical connection with all animals. This member spent most of an hour sitting quietly in the room with the very afraid cat. They did not try to engage with the cat or try to pet it. I checked in with them after 45 minutes and not only was the cat out of its box but was in the member’s lap accepting pats. It was one of the best moments I had as part of the Community Volunteer program.


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