Melanie Tait & Kendall Miller

Road to Recovery: The Influence of Mindfulness on Occupations for People with Mental Health Conditions and/or Substance Use

Authors: Melanie Tait, Kendall Miller, Tom Heah, Kathy Wong, Katie Lee Bunting, Jaisa Sulit, Noa Cohen, & Dr. Tal Jarus

Introduction. One in four people will have a mental health and/or substance-use condition within their lifespan. Such conditions can negatively impact functioning in everyday life and overall participation in occupations. Mindfulness is one approach taught by Occupational Therapists (OTs) to promote recovery. Research suggests that mindfulness reduces symptomology and increases awareness of present moment experiences.  There is minimal research on how mindfulness influences participation in occupations. Objectives. To explore how an eight-week mindfulness program influences participation in occupations for individuals who have a mental health and/or substance-use condition. Methods. This exploratory research used a mixed-methods approach. A convenience sample (N=27) was recruited from four eight-week, mindfulness programs run by OTs in the community. Participation (Subjective Assessment of Participation), mindfulness (Freiburg Mindfulness Questionnaire) and symptomatology (anxiety and depression scales) were measured pre and post intervention (N=15). Ten participants took part in a semi-structured interview after program completion. Results. The themes “Doing,” “Being,” “Belonging,” and “Becoming” are described, wherein participants describe how doing the mindfulness group results in an improved sense of occupational balance on their road to recovery. Quantitative changes in participation are expected to increase with improved mindfulness skills. Conclusions. Through exploring the lived experience of people with mental health conditions participating in mindfulness interventions, this research examines related changes in occupational engagement. It also speaks to the value of integrating emerging therapeutic tools such as mindfulness into OT practice to broaden and enhance occupational therapy’s future potential.