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What Is Therapeutic Work?

By T. Carrier
Updated Jan 26, 2024
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Therapeutic work refers to activities that are designed to improve an individual’s well-being. Such action-oriented therapy may be useful in a number of settings, from psychological counseling to occupational therapy. Work may refer to structured group settings where projects are undertaken, or it may reference the daily activities and duties that an individual encounters. Other forms of therapeutic work might include medically-backed employee placement programs or the session-to-session interactions between a therapist and his or her client.

Many counselors use therapeutic work as an important tool. These instances often consist of group therapy sessions in which several patients gather to undertake a task, typically during a scheduled stretch of time. Activities might include recreational applied activities like arts or crafts, or they may consist of a specific project, such as renovating a room. These sessions are often merged with traditional talk-based counseling to provide a more comprehensive therapeutic experience.

For some professions, therapeutic work is the primary means of fostering change. Occupational therapists, for example, help individuals who have suffered a physical or mental setback resume their normal daily lives. As such, these professionals focus on helping restore average functioning on everyday living and work tasks, ranging from taking a bath to going on a job interview. Play therapists, on the other hand, mainly help children express emotions and conduct tasks through structured playtime activities. Similarly, art therapists encourage expression through the activity of drawing or painting.

In a broader sense, therapeutic work may encompass all of the work that goes into developing a successful therapeutic outcome, and different types of therapeutic treatments facilitate different types of work. For example, many therapists request that their patients keep daily logs about various thoughts or feelings, particularly in cognitive therapies. A behavioral therapist, in a similar approach, might work with a patient in physically confronting a feared object or situation. Psychoanalysts, in contrast, might have a patient work with personally interpreting abstract objects or designs. Even the therapist-patient rapport established through talk-based counseling may be considered part of therapeutic work.

A main cornerstone behind therapeutic work is building self-esteem. Individuals who feel useful and independent have been shown to possess higher feelings of self-worth in many studies. The feelings of achievement gained from undertaking and successfully completing a task can bolster positive emotion. As such, some therapy programs offer work placement programs in areas such as retail stores as a form of therapeutic work.

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Discussion Comments
By SteamLouis — On Oct 16, 2014

We all have worries and fears in life. There isn't anyone who doesn't have a problem. But I believe that there is something for everyone that can be therapeutic for them, something unique.

Spending time in nature, massage, baths, yoga and meditation are all great. But doing something that one enjoys a lot is better. I for one love movies. It is therapeutic for me because I don't worry needlessly when I'm watching a film. I am completely engrossed in it. I've not found any other activity that gives me serenity like that. Everyone needs to find that activity that can be their escape when needed.

By literally45 — On Oct 15, 2014

@turquoise-- My cousin was in Iraq too and had the same issue. He felt very alienated when he returned, couldn't adjust to life again, didn't want to socialize. His wife and children were very helpful though and that encouraged him to try and feel normal again.

Hobbies are wonderful in such difficult times. Playing an instrument, painting, writing, anything creative that will keep the mind occupied is beneficial.

By turquoise — On Oct 14, 2014

My little brother started therapy after coming back from Iraq. He was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. It's very common in soldiers, especially those who spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thankfully, the therapy has been very beneficial and my brother is doing much, much better. We don't know what would have happened without therapy. I'm sure that it would have taken him much longer to overcome his issues. He still has anxiety that he's working on. The nightmares, which were the worst, are thankfully over.

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