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In complex cases, healthcare programs need to be tailored to address a client’s individual health concerns and help them find a meaningful path forward. This ‘Connected Care Story’ features the adaptive approach that one of our occupational therapists used to support *Derek, a client dealing with persistent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Derek had been working as a first responder and was deeply struggling with PTSD and cumulative trauma from his time on the job. Upon waking up each morning, he experienced low function in his movements and turbulent moods, feeling emotions that would fluctuate throughout the day.

Eventually, he became fearful of leaving his house, which resulted in him having to stop work and left him isolated at home. Derek found it increasingly difficult to cope at home, and made the decision to get help and was referred to an occupational therapist at CBI Health.

When he first began occupational therapy sessions online, he brought with him the intense anxiety, depression and anger he had been experiencing. As a first step, Derek’s occupational therapist helped him identify the stressors in his life that would trigger these symptoms, and then worked towards setting daily functional goals that he could focus his energy on. This included things like establishing a consistent morning and sleep routine, preparing regular meals, and going out for brief walks and light exercise during the day.  

An important goal that mattered to Derek was re-connecting with his community and the people in his life that he cared about. With COVID-19 restrictions acting as a barrier to social connection, his occupational therapist encouraged Derek to reach out to people who were supportive of him via phone and video calls, such as his work colleagues, family and friends.

Derek’s occupational therapist then moved towards in-person treatment sessions and accompanied him on physically-distanced outdoor walks, building on goals that mattered to him and using exposure therapy to help him confront things that triggered his trauma.

Day by day, Derek has found that his fearful response to his PTSD triggers has been noticeably reduced and finds that he is not as anxious or hypervigilant to his surroundings. He is proud that for the first time in a long time, he is able to put on his uniform – something that he initially didn’t think he could ever do again. Although there are other triggers that he hasn’t been able to fully overcome yet, Derek is encouraged by the progress that he has made so far, and will continue to actively work on these goals together with his occupational therapist.

Derek’s occupational therapist notices that the person he is today is vastly different than the client who came in at the beginning of treatment. Not only has his hypervigilance, anger and anxiety been significantly reduced, but his attitude began to shift while taking part in his treatment program. Something connected within Derek and he began to express renewed strength and resilience to really take part in the program and get better for himself. His determination and willingness to continue in his treatment has led to increasing confidence, energy levels, and physical and mental function.

The next steps in his treatment plan include setting a long-term goal for Derek to return to work next year. To prepare him for returning to his intensive, fast-paced job, his occupational therapist will help him find volunteer opportunities to become more involved in his community.

Derek has a strong internal desire to serve and help others – a core component of his work – and exploring volunteer opportunities will allow him to further increase his confidence in the community and in helping others.

*Client’s name has been changed