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This ‘Connected Care Story’ focuses on a client who sought treatment with a registered occupational therapist at CBI Health to combat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex grief.

Sherri* was referred to CBI Health by her social worker, who believed that an occupational therapist would be able to help her to engage in her everyday activities and move forward towards returning to work. Sherri suffered from PTSD and complex grief following the passing of her spouse and faced various traumas from dealing with the experience. This impacted her ability to function and made it hard for her to concentrate and cope at work. She avoided anything that reminded her of her spouse, including her workplace, and began isolating herself from friends and family. Sherri did not have the motivation to reach out to her loved ones and the circumstances of COVID-19 made it even more difficult for her. She felt foggy, stressed, anxious, and depressed. She was overwhelmed with emotions, feeling fatigued, and found it hard to complete everyday activities such as showering, doing laundry, buying groceries, or even sleeping.

Sherri’s treatment plan began with meeting her occupational therapist virtually, to build up her coping strategies. She worked on education-related tasks, such as reading about her condition, completing homework exercises, and keeping an activity log. She also performed breathing exercises, meditation, and sleep hygiene strategies. She set weekly goals, such as reaching out to friends and applying assertiveness strategies.

After building a foundation through virtual sessions, Sherri began in-person treatment for exposure therapy. As exposure therapy can be intensive for some people, she used the skills developed during her virtual sessions to help her cope with the strong emotions brought on from this new treatment. One of the major barriers Sherri dealt with was avoiding places and activities that reminded her of her spouse. Exposure therapy helped Sherri to face these anxiety provoking experiences, such as visiting rooms in her house that she had been avoiding.

She worked with her occupational therapist on coping and breathing exercises, and gradually built up the amount of time she was able to spend in these rooms. Eventually her anxiety levels decreased and with repeated exposure she was able to visit these rooms on her own. She soon progressed to other areas in her house, and eventually made her way out to public locations, including her workplace.

Sherri’s treatment with her occupational therapist helped her to engage more in both personal and work-related activities. She started going on walks and talking to her friends and family more. She implemented the strategies learned during her treatment sessions into her everyday life. Sherri eventually changed her mindset about her workplace and saw it as a space to provide structure and offer support in her life. She learned how to manage conflict, become more assertive, express her needs, and maintain boundaries.

*Client’s name has been changed.