Forensic occupational therapy: transforming lives of those who need it mostZoe Simmons
Occupational therapy is all about helping people be the best version of themselves—and forensic occupational therapy is no different.
What is forensic occupational therapy?
Forensic occupational therapy helps people living with a mental illness do the things they need to in order to live healthier, more enriching, more satisfying lives.
“I believe everyone deserves to do the things they need to do to feel like themselves,” Forensicare Chief Occupational Therapist Marissa Davidson-Blue said.
“In forensic mental health, we’re often working with people who haven’t had a very good sense of identity, belonging or community before beginning their recovery journey. Even the little things can play a big role in that recovery.”
No single day is the same for a forensic occupational therapist. You could be helping someone develop organisation and time management skills, gain social confidence, make friends, find a job, write a grocery list, or even something as seemingly simple as how to make small talk.
“There’s a great privilege in helping people have a second shot at learning something they hadn’t learnt previously,” Marissa said.
“There’s really so much joy in seeing the simplest changes in someone. Like seeing them walking past and being able to smile with confidence, or showing pride in something they’d never been able to do, or never had recognised before.”
“I’ve got a big belief that everyone has the capacity to do anything they want with the right supports. It’s really rewarding to see people start to figure out who they are.”
Marissa’s story: the journey of one forensic occupational therapist
It’s always been Marissa’s goal to help people. Although she originally wanted to be a social worker or a teacher, Marissa says she’s definitely found her place working at Forensicare.
“I’ve been here 12 years,” she said.
“I did my final student placement here, and enjoyed it so much, I ended up coming back—and I’ve been here ever since.”
Marissa’s love for occupational therapy began back in high school when she chose it for her work experience in Year 10.
“It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do since,” she said.
After rising through the ranks at Forensicare, Marissa now heads the organisation’s occupational therapy team—which has grown immensely after rapid service expansion over recent years.
“When I started, we had six of us sitting around a table having our meetings. Now, we fill a whole conference room.
“In fact, we’re almost half of the national [Forensic OT] workforce!”
“It’s really exciting to see how the good practice and good supports OTs have done have demonstrated the need for change, and that Forensicare really supports that.”
“I just know it’s the right decision for me. I’ve found a job and a profession that fits me perfectly.”
“And I’ve found a supportive organisation where I get to work with an amazing bunch of OTs who do the same job in a lot of different ways.”
A rewarding career
When you work in forensic occupational therapy, you’re helping people reach their full potential.
“You’re helping people to rebuild their lives, which will promote health and wellbeing, and reduce the risk of future reoffending,” Marissa said.
“It’s such a privilege to help people in a way they genuinely want to get help in—whether that’s getting better at something, or getting more confidence.”
“I love watching and hearing how someone’s been able to do something now that they weren’t able to a few months ago.”
“When you see someone walking past with that new-found inner confidence, that’s when you know you’re doing invaluable work.”
We’re proud of our occupational therapists
“Forensicare has a great reason to be extraordinarily proud of its OTs,” Executive Director of Clinical Services Danny Sullivan said.
“They set the pace for forensic occupational therapy both in Australia and internationally.”
Our dedicated team of OTs run highly sought after programs and student placements, providing a unique and valued perspective on mental health recovery.
“OTs often have a new way of looking at a problem–which works wonders for our consumers,” Danny said.
A consumer’s story
Forensicare’s occupational therapy team makes a real difference in the lives of our consumers.
“Kicking goals can make such a difference in someone’s confidence and well-being,” Marissa said.
“I worked with a guy who hadn’t held a job, for example, in over 20 years. We managed to help him get a casual job four hours a week, and it gave him a new identity. A life above and beyond being a patient in a forensic service.”
Marissa can recall countless lovely moments where consumers have told her the difference her help has made in their lives.
“I’ve had a consumer come up and tell me that, because I’d helped them practice making spaghetti, they were able to cook some and share a meal with their kids for the first time.”
“It’s really about helping people do those intimate, personal things with confidence.”
Yes, it can be challenging
It can be exhausting. It can be hard. But at the end of the day, it’s worth it, Marissa says.
“I go home every day knowing I made a real difference in someone’s life—and you can’t put a price on that.”
To all our OTs—and all the amazing OTs around the world—thank you. Because we couldn’t do it without you.
Thinking of a career in forensic occupational therapy? Register your details on our eRecruit site.