Finding Purpose Through Trauma: An Occupational Therapy Perspective

Did you know that MSH serves as an internship site for a variety of disciplines? We have worked with students in social work, clinical counseling, business, rehabilitative counseling, and occupational therapy. During COVID-19 we have been lucky enough to have an OT student on site from Arkansas State University. She is pursuing her doctorate in OT and has been a wonderful addition to the team in the midst of this crisis. Check out this beautiful piece she wrote on how OT can be used at MSH!

“So…what is occupational therapy?”
“Is it like physical therapy?”
“Are you going to help me find a job?”
“So you’re going to make my arms stronger?”

These are all questions I get asked a lot as an occupational therapy student. And the answer is yes, yes, and yes. But to classify occupational therapy under only one category or service would be underplaying the broad scope of our practice. The textbook definition of occupational therapy will tell you “occupational therapy is the use of assessment and intervention to develop, recover, or maintain the meaningful activities, or occupations, of individuals, groups, or communities.” However, I believe occupational therapy can be easily defined in much simpler terms. One word in fact…..HOPE

Occupational therapy is uniquely holistic and client-centered. We are here to serve our clients in any way possible and help them find meaning in their lives through occupation. So what exactly is occupation? Well, although many people assume we mean job when we say occupation, an occupation is actually any activity that occupies your time. Anything you do with your time in your life is an occupation. Bathing, dressing, shopping, working, cooking, cleaning, leisure activities, sleeping, and anything else you spend your time doing. Occupational therapists have unique skills that allow us to treat whatever deficit may be inhibiting your participation in occupations or make modifications to the occupation itself or environment to promote success. Whether it’s a physical disability, mental or emotional illness, intellectual delay, motivational issue, or any other ailment, we are problem solvers that will find a way to get you back to doing the things that are meaningful to you.

So what does all this have to do with Magdalene and how does an occupational therapist fit here? Well, research shows that addiction, incarceration, and other forms of trauma significantly impact an individual’s occupational performance. Some studies have even gone as far as to consider addiction an occupation in itself. Trauma can impact every aspect of a person’s life making it difficult or even impossible to maintain relationships with loved ones, gainful employment, healthy leisure activities, financial management, and other essential occupations. Those who have battled an addiction often fall back into previous behaviors due to a simple lack of support or resources to teach them healthy meaningful activities to occupy their time rather than substance use. The American Occupational Therapy Association published a short article titled Recovery with Purpose: Occupational Therapy and Drug and Alcohol Abuse. I found one of the quotes from the article to be helpful for this piece. It reads as follows:

“Occupational therapy goes beyond helping clients to stop drug use; it prepares clients to fill whatever void the substance leaves behind with productive occupation. According to Stoffel, ‘We want people to find the activities that are meaningful to them and at just the right level of challenge so that, as they redesign their lifestyle, they tap into those things that allow them to move into a state of well-being. This is where occupational therapy can really make a difference in helping people stay in long-term recovery.’”

Occupational therapy has distinct value in assisting the residents of Magdalene House in their transition to productive members of society by offering them the ability to find meaningful, purposeful occupations to fill their time in place of their addiction. OT practitioners provide these individuals with skills and abilities they need to function independently and successfully and flourish in society. We provide them with opportunities to find their purpose.

Resident Achievements

  • We have a full house of residents dedicated to their recovery and healing.
  • One of our residents will celebrate ONE YEAR at MSH in June.
  • Two of our residents purchased a vehicle this month.
  • One of our residents obtained employment.
  • Two of our residents have been able to safely return to work.
  • Two of our residents celebrated 8 months clean and sober!
  • One of our residents moved into Phase Three at Drug Court!
  • Did you see MSH in the news? Check it out here. We have been busy applying for grant funding to support our residents during COVID-19 and beyond.

Resident Success Stories

“I have gained so much this month at Magdalene Serenity House. I have had two job interviews and learned a lot of patience. I have also come closer to seeing my children one day. And also made amends with family and gained relationships back. I am so thankful to the staff for all they do and to be part of such a loving community.”

“While being at Magdalene Serenity House I’ve been able to get my life back in order with all the support from the staff and volunteers. I’m not so great at making great choices yet, but with the help of the great staff I’m slowly learning how to live life right again and get on track. This program has honestly saved my life!! I will forever be grateful for all the people involved and all the love and support.”

“I have been sober for 7 months, the longest I’ve been 100% clean from any mind altering substance in 17 years. I have connection with family members that I never thought would want to be part of my life again. I am moving right along in Drug Court. I am so thankful for the Drug Court Program and Magdalene House. The support I have in both programs is amazing. I recently got my license back and put a down payment on a car. Life is amazing. I would never trade what I have now for one day in my addiction. Thank you to all the supporters and volunteers. You guys make this possible for us!

Volunteer Update

As our state begins to re-open there’s still a lot of uncertainty that remains and at MSH we recognize the importance to still follow recommended guidelines from our state officials and the CDC. Many of our residents have returned to work and while staff has managed transportation for residents over the past couple of months, the need for help with transportation is beginning to increase. With careful consideration, we have decided to gradually begin utilizing volunteers again for transportation. Of course we understand not all volunteers are comfortable or able to transport residents at this time. We plan to implement our own safety standards which will include clients sitting in the backseat and wearing masks. Most all transportation is local with one client who works in Farmington and the hours will be between 7am and 7pm. As always, we appreciate your support and dedication to Magdalene Serenity House. Interested in helping out during this time? Email

Thank You!

A big thank you to all of our friends and supporters for helping MSH stay stocked in cleaning and program supplies during COVID-19. We have felt incredibly loved and supported during this crisis and are grateful for your support! Want to help our household stay fully supplied? Check out our Amazon Wish List. Our list is updated weekly to reflect our current needs. Any item purchased is greatly appreciated!

Have you considered writing an encouraging note to our residents? Giving financially is not the only way you can support MSH. Our residents need support of all kinds during this time where their continued healing and recovery is being put to the test amidst a season of uncertainty. The residents can be reached by mail at PO Box 3394 Fayetteville, AR 72702. We hope to hear from you!