Student Ambassador Blog | Melissa
Fieldwork in Pediatric Mental Health
Hey everyone! I wanted to talk to you guys about my experience working in pediatric mental health, as I recently completed my full week for my level I fieldwork. For those of you that don’t know a lot about what fieldwork means and what that looks like in our program, Joyce does a great job of explaining it in her blog and you can also find additional information here.
I’m not sure how much you guys already know about OT’s role in pediatric mental health, but I knew very little before taking part in this internship. This is not your typical pediatric placement, as I don’t have an occupational therapist onsite, nor am I seeing children with specific developmental or intellectual disabilities. Instead, I work with children in the early intervention program that are between the ages of 3 and 5 who have been exposed to some sort of trauma. The trauma includes, but is not limited to, domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and being removed from the home. Because of this trauma, children exhibit behaviors that prevent them from being able to participate in a typical classroom setting. Thus, they are sent to the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic – where I am placed this semester - in hopes that receiving mental health services can help them get back to their previous school settings.
Young children exposed to trauma often do not have the ability to understand what they have gone through. Some may be removed from their homes for an extended period of time, and others may be adopted by someone in their extended family. This is all happening while they are trying to build healthy attachments with their caregivers, which is crucial to their psychosocial development. As a result, these children may present with aggressive behaviors or tantrums that stem from an inability to regulate how their body is feeling, and that is where OTs come in! Due to our expertise in sensory strategies and techniques, we are able to give children that are presenting with dysregulation the tools they need to successfully regulate their bodies and emotions.
My favorite part about our level I fieldwork experience is the full week, as I feel that that is when I get a true feel for what my role as an OT looks like at my placement. This semester has not been different, and I feel like I have a much better understanding of what OTs role in pediatric mental health looks like. Although I do not have an OT onsite to shadow, I feel confident in my understanding of OTs role. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, don’t be scared! You have an excellent team behind you at USC, and you should use them whenever you can. My experience has been that sites truly value occupational therapy, and are always grateful to host students. If you ever have any questions about fieldwork, pediatric mental health, or being placed at a site without an OT, don’t hesitate to reach out!