How to Apply Complementary and Integrative Health for Self-Care and OT Practice

How to Apply Complementary and Integrative Health for Self-Care and OT Practice

By Carisa Hillman, OTS

This is the third of three blog posts in a series where Carisa chronicled her fieldwork experiences in an OT and Complementary and Integrative Health setting with Emmy Vadnais, OTR/L.

Blog Post 1
Blog Post 2

Hello Holistic community visitors!I just wanted to begin by thanking everyone who has reached out and commented on my last two posts. I really appreciate hearing all of the thoughts and ideas on my writing. As I have now completed my 12 weeks working with Emmy, I wanted to share some of my takeaway points I gathered from this experience.


In my first week of working with Emmy, I was introduced to her course “The Power of the Mind in Healing: How Meditation, Relaxation, Spirituality, and Intuition can Enhance Health and Healing.” Within this course, I not only learned how meditation can be used with clients, I also learned how I could apply meditation practice to my own life.

Emmy encouraged me to practice forms of meditation at least three times per week to help me identify what approaches I found to be most effective. In my weeks of practice, I found progressive relaxation, mindfulness, and emotional freedom technique (EFT) to be the most effective methods of relaxation for me. Throughout further practice, I concluded that by surrounding myself in nature I was better able to reach a level of calm unobtainable utilizing individual techniques on their own.

Over the course of my 12 weeks, I saw how important it is for healthcare professionals to “practice what they preach.” In practicing the same techniques used with their clients/patients, healthcare professionals can increase the overall quality of care they provide. Not only because their knowledge of each approach increases, but they also receive the benefits from each techniques in a way that can help improve their own self care.

Go here for more information on self-care

Administering the COPM – Canadian Occupational Performance Measure

Applying Complementary and Integrative Techniques with Clients

Along with improving self-care, complementary and integrative techniques can be helpful with managing pain, stress and anxiety, along with preventing disease and other health symptoms related pain, stress, and anxiety.

As I saw through my work with Emmy and in my other Fieldwork site, techniques such as controlled breathing, meditation/relaxation, and aromatherapy were very effective in helping patients decrease their overall feelings of anxiety and decreasing overall rated pain.

As I became more familiar with these techniques, I felt more confident in sharing my knowledge with patients providing them resources for how they could implement these techniques on their own to help manage their symptoms.

To read more on the effects of complementary and integrative approaches with lowering pain, stress, anxiety and prevention of disease, here are three articles you may enjoy:

How Holistic OT can Lower Pain, Stress, Anxiety, & Prevent Disease

Power of the Mind in Healing: Relaxation Can Positively Affect Our Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Health All the Way to the Genetic Level    

The Power of Meditation: This Practice of Focused Attention Can Reduce Pain and Stress While Improving Health and Healing

Once an Emerging Practice, Now with an Increasing Demand By Consumers

In my time with Emmy, I also learned that complementary and integrative approaches have been considered “emerging” areas of practice for many years. However, over the most recent years our culture has shown an increased interest in improving overall health practices. There has been more research demonstrating this efficacy, and people are seeking out these types of care. This includes proper nutrition, adequate physical activity, and the use of non-pharmacological approaches to decrease symptoms of pain, stress, and anxiety. These approaches are now part of the diversity in heath care and occupational therapy practice.

Mid-term Carisa Hillman, OTS and Emmy Vadnais, OTR/L

In my 12 weeks with Emmy, we worked on a case study with two different clients. During my time with each, I was able to provide education on healthy meal planning, aided in creating an exercise program, and educated on the use of essential oils. Following their education and implementation of these approaches both reported feeling less stressed, and felt as if they had more energy in their daily routines.

One client also noted that they felt more comfortable in their own body through implementing these techniques. By providing my clients with these methods I can better prepare them with tools to aid in improving their overall participation in daily activities.

Through my experience, I have seen these techniques utilized more frequently within both private practice and mainstream practice. The beauty of these techniques is that they not only can be used to manage/treat symptoms, but they can be implemented as preventive measures with clients, as well.

For more information on these techniques and how they play a role in prevention and wellness refer to the following articles:

Complementary and Integrative Medicine as an Emerging Practice 


Prevention and Wellness

Writer’s Notes and Acknowledgements

There are so many topics I could touch on when discussing my experience with Emmy, but for time and space I only chose a few techniques and topics that had application to both healthcare professionals in their own life as well as for patients being educated on these techniques.

Last day of Fieldwork Carisa Hillman, OTS and Emmy Vadnais, OTR/L

I have learned so much in my time working with Emmy and have a better understanding of the multitude of approaches I can use with my clients in my future practice. This experience has also helped me better determine what areas of my practice I may want to become further educated in so that I can utilize them to my maximum potential in the future.

For this, and many other reasons, I thank Emmy for giving me the opportunity to study a wide range of new approaches and learn how to not only provide adequate care to my patients, but also for helping to improve my overall self-care practices as well. Also, a huge thank you to all of the great people that have followed my Fieldwork journey throughout the last 12 weeks. I appreciate all of the positive feedback I have received.

Wishing everyone a warm and joyful holiday season. – Carisa

Carisa Hillman is a Master’s of Occupational Therapy student who will be graduating December 2016 from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN. Carisa has a strong background with fitness and nutrition. She has also worked within a wide variety of health care settings throughout her academic career. Following her 12 weeks working with with Emmy Vadnais, OTR/L Carisa plans to continue learning about complementary and integrative health, wellness and prevention approaches as she hopes to apply them in her future practice.

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