Current PhD Students
Faculty Mentor: Beth Pyatak PhD, OTR/L, CDE
Research Lab: Chronic Conditions in Young Adulthood
Year of Entry: 2017
Master of Science (MS)
in Occupational Therapy
California State University, Dominguez Hills
Bachelor of Science (BS)
University of California, Los Angeles
My research interest lies in exploring the occupation of “rest,” or more specifically, the “relaxation response” as explained by Dr. Herbert Benson at Massachusetts General Hospital: “a wakeful hypometabolic physiological state” that is the opposite of the fight or flight response. Regular elicitation of the relaxation response is believed to help people reduce their responsivity to stressors and increase resiliency. There is a large body of research to support practices such as yoga and meditation as effective methods to elicit the relaxation response. One interesting question is whether the occupations people self-identify as relaxing can elicit the “relaxation response” in a manner comparable to yoga and meditation. Another interesting question is whether “rest” can be conceptualized as a skill.
How is this all important to OT? In all OT areas of practice, stress has some degree of influence. For example, studies using both animal and human models have suggested that increases in the amount of stress experienced can increase wound healing time. If this is the case, then as part of holistic care in physical rehabilitation settings, OTs can encourage clients to regularly elicit the relaxation response and problem solve obstacles to doing so. Theoretically, this would increase resiliency to stress and hence reduce healing time.
My goal in doing this research is to expand the evidence base around the occupation of “rest” to the point where findings can be utilized in OT practice to improve the health and quality of life of the individuals and populations we serve.