The Role of Occupational Therapists : ACT team

Happy Occupational therapy month!

If you’ve been following along with my blog posts, you may have read my most recent blog about Occupational therapy and where you might find us (click here to read).

I have reached out to some friends and colleagues to help share their roles and scope of practices in the occupational therapy profession, and in the next month I will be writing different articles about the different populations and roles you might see an occupational therapist working in. My hope is that people will be able to read, learn and share about occupational therapy so that more people will be able to seek out services if it would benefit them.

Today, we’re starting our deep dive into Occupational therapy positions by looking at ACT teams and what the OT role is in this setting:

What is an ACT team?

ACT stands for “Assertive Community Treatment”. ACT is a client centred, recovery-oriented mental health service delivery model that helps support community living, psychosocial rehabilitation and recovery for individuals with the most severe mental illness, symptoms and impairments. Often these individuals haven’t benefitted from traditional outpatient programs. Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams are multidisciplinary teams, each usually having a social worker, nurses, occupational therapist, and potentially other health care providers such as psychiatrists, peer support workers etc. ACT teams provide intensive treatment, rehabilitation and support services for individuals with serious mental illness.

Often treatment may include psychiatric treatment, administering and monitoring medications, helping clients access community services and assisting individuals in their activities of daily living. (Activities of daily living can include anything from dressing, preparing meals, grocery shopping etc). Clients may get support applying for funding opportunities, with maintaining housing, employment, and obtaining assistive devices (think walkers, wheelchairs, etc). Support is provided as frequently as required, and team members rotate overnight shifts to ensure that clients are supported 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The beauty of this team is that they all communicate and work together to make sure that all of their clients are receiving the level of care they need in all aspects of health. The overall goal of health care professionals on an ACT team is to help support their clients to be independent in the community.

Individuals that might access an ACT team are 16 years and older, often with a primary diagnosis of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. They may have had recent hospital admissions or have high level needs. You can often apply for ACT team services online or over the phone, or might be referred to an ACT team from another health care professional. ACT teams work well because they are mobile and services are offered in the community, in client’s homes, and in office.

Something that is important to note about ACT teams is that their services are delivered in an ongoing, rather than time limited framework, which helps ensure continuity of care and maintenance of long term symptoms. Often times people think of Occupational therapy as a short term service, where you might see an OT once or twice and then move on (which is true in some cases!). But for individuals who have ongoing conditions/symptoms/challenges, their relationship with their OT might be long term. This allows them to compensate, grow, and experience the ebbs and flows/the roller coaster of progress as they move through life with their mental illness (or other diagnoses).

One of my OT colleagues and friends, who will remain anonymous, wrote a blurb about her experience working on an ACT team, to provide a bit of first hand experience from an Occupational therapy lens:

“I am fortunate enough to be working as an occupational therapist (OT) in the area of community mental health on an ACT (assertive community treatment) team. My role is largely in case management. This includes everything from managing medications (ensuring clients are taking the right medications, this might include me delivering their medication daily), monitoring symptoms, connecting clients with resources they might need (housing, ODSP, psychiatric and physical health appointments) and much more in order to help clients stay well in the community. I work with an amazing team of other professionals (social workers, nurses, concurrent disorder specialists etc) who also have this case management role. Our caseload is largely comprised of individuals living with schizophrenia and or mood disorders.

It is a very faced paced environment, but I love to bring in my OT skill set when I can! This has included skill training (cooking, budgeting, social skills), equipment needs (walkers, bathroom equipment to prevent falls) and of course – promoting my clients to engage in their meaningful occupations! In addition, I am working towards becoming CBT qualified (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and am so excited to offer this treatment for clients in the future. The neat thing is that there is no defined OT role on my team. Each OT brings with them their own unique set of skills and passions to enable occupation in a variety of contexts.

I always knew I wanted to work in mental health, but I was never sure of how to enter the field. OT has opened so many doors for me and I couldn’t be happier with my career choice.

Before applying to OT school, I had no idea how broad this profession was (think: helping kiddos with feeding vs prescribing a state of the art wheelchair for a spinal cord injury client vs leading a group therapy session for veterans…). This makes OT so hard to define and grasp. But, it also makes OT my ideal profession. I love that I have the potential to switch my focus, practice area and client population – all in the name of OT.

Happy OT month!”

If you have any questions further about an ACT team, about Occupational therapy, or if you have experiences you would like to share, please feel free to reach out through my Contact page, or leave a comment below! I have decided that I will continue to make changes to these posts through the month of October, so if you think I’m missing anything or would like to share your personal experience with an ACT team, send me a blurb to add!

More of my OT related blogs to check out!


Published by maiiflowerr

Pronouns She/Her/they/them. I'm a millennial just trying to make a difference in the world, and create space for people to accept themselves and live their best lives. My fiancee, Sydney, and I are mothers to our two goofy cats, and the queens of creative adventures. I am an Occupational therapist, a dancer and a yoga instructor with a passion for supporting people and creating community.

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