Nicole Blog Banner

Staff Spot­light: Meet Nicole, Occu­pa­tion­al Therapist

KYC is hon­ored to high­light the work that our team mem­bers do with­in and beyond our agency – team mem­bers like Nicole tru­ly exem­pli­fy our vision that Togeth­er We Thrive. By shar­ing her pas­sion for her work through the Amer­i­can Occu­pa­tion­al Ther­a­py Association’s (AOTA) Men­tal Health Spe­cial Inter­est Sec­tion Stand­ing Com­mit­tee, she is help­ing to bring oth­er tal­ent­ed stu­dents and young pro­fes­sion­als to the men­tal health field and help­ing clients con­nect with the vital resources they need to achieve their goals.

Build­ing Con­nec­tions, Build­ing Careers

Nicole Blog Banner 1

Nicole Bark­er, OTR/L, is an Occu­pa­tion­al Ther­a­pist with KYC’s Com­mu­ni­ty Liv­ing team. I’m one of two front-line treat­ment Occu­pa­tion­al Ther­a­pists. I help fig­ure out what peo­ple need to lead ful­fill­ing, mean­ing­ful lives with the sup­ports they need for inde­pen­dence,” Nicole explains.

Nicole’s pas­sion for help­ing clients achieve their goals is clear – as she talks about her work, her ener­gy and com­mit­ment to her clients, her team, and her pro­fes­sion are unde­ni­able and inspir­ing. This is undoubt­ed­ly why she was select­ed to serve a three-year term on the Amer­i­can Occu­pa­tion­al Ther­a­py Asso­ci­a­tion (AOTA) Men­tal Health Spe­cial Inter­est Sec­tion Stand­ing Com­mit­tee as both the New Pro­fes­sion­als Coor­di­na­tor and the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Coordinator.

The Com­mit­tee seeks to pro­mote the devel­op­ment and growth of the role of Occu­pa­tion­al Ther­a­py (OT) in men­tal health – some­thing that Nicole is keen­ly pas­sion­ate about. She shares dual roles on the Com­mit­tee, which she shares with anoth­er OT pro­fes­sion­al. Nicole has a spe­cial focus on pro­mot­ing men­tal health care as part of OT treat­ment, and in pro­mot­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for Occu­pa­tion­al Ther­a­pists who are new­ly-grad­u­at­ed or ear­ly in their careers. I want to con­vert as many OT stu­dents into being inter­est­ed in men­tal health as pos­si­ble, as well as bring fur­ther atten­tion to our his­tor­i­cal role of men­tal health providers,” she shares. She also helps dis­sem­i­nate the lat­est eval­u­a­tion meth­ods and growth oppor­tu­ni­ties among oth­er Occu­pa­tion­al Ther­a­pists across the coun­try – knowl­edge that she can bring right back to her own work with clients at KYC.

Occu­pa­tion­al Ther­a­py as a Men­tal Health Profession

Nicole Blog Banner 2

AOTA states that Occu­pa­tion­al Ther­a­py (OT) is a branch of health care that helps peo­ple across the lifes­pan par­tic­i­pate in the things they want and need to do through the ther­a­peu­tic use of every­day activ­i­ties (occu­pa­tions). It has some over­lap with nurs­ing and a lot in com­mon with social work. I deeply appre­ci­ate the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work with both as part of my team,” Nicole shares.

Nicole explains that at its roots, OT was ground­ed in men­tal health work around the end of World War I, as sol­diers were return­ing home, and were deal­ing with what was then termed shell shock,” in addi­tion to phys­i­cal impair­ments. Occu­pa­tion­al Ther­a­pists helped sol­diers rein­te­grate to dai­ly life by guid­ing them to adapt to their every­day liv­ing envi­ron­ments. The field lat­er became more focused on help­ing peo­ple adapt to med­ical and phys­i­cal ail­ments, but in recent years, the field has returned more focus to men­tal health.

As an Occu­pa­tion­al Ther­a­pist, Nicole com­pletes eval­u­a­tions to address clients’ com­plex needs, help­ing them build dai­ly rou­tines and strength­en skills of dai­ly liv­ing. That could include help­ing peo­ple with get­ting dressed in the morn­ing, tak­ing med­ica­tions at the right time, learn­ing how to clean your apart­ment, up to com­plex things like col­lab­o­rat­ing on envi­ron­men­tal mod­i­fi­ca­tions to their apart­ments, such as deter­min­ing if equip­ment like wheel­chairs or oth­er devices are need­ed.” Nicole shares that the Col­bert & Williams Decrees in par­tic­u­lar were ground­break­ing, because we’re going back to [the Class Mem­bers’] nat­ur­al envi­ron­ments – going in to someone’s home can let you do exact­ly what you need to do for them, rather than sim­u­lat­ing in a hos­pi­tal environment.”

Help­ing Clients Live As Inde­pen­dent­ly As Pos­si­ble: Col­bert & Williams Con­sent Decrees

KYC 50 Logos 50 GLD BRST

Kenneth Young Center is honored to highlight Nicole and the work of our Occupational Therapists and Community Living team as part of our 50th anniversary celebrations. Through our #KYC50For50 campaign, we're highlighting 50 stories, events, and updates as we honor 50 years of service to our communities.

I work with our clients who are mem­bers of the Col­bert & Williams Con­sent Decree class­es, mov­ing them out of nurs­ing home place­ments into as inde­pen­dent of a liv­ing set­ting as is pos­si­ble for them,” Nicole shares.

As Nicole sum­ma­rizes, the Col­bert and Williams Con­sent Decrees are an out­growth of law­suits relat­ed to the Med­ic­aid Olm­stead Deci­sion at the Supreme Court that said that peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties (phys­i­cal and men­tal, includ­ing men­tal health) have a right to live in the com­mu­ni­ty first, before being insti­tu­tion­al­ized. (You can find more infor­ma­tion about the Decrees on the Illi­nois Depart­ment of Human Ser­vices web­site here.)

Each Class Mem­ber needs per­son­al­ized sup­port and resources to live safe­ly in the com­mu­ni­ty based upon their phys­i­cal, emo­tion­al, and men­tal health needs. Some­times it’s as sim­ple as teach­ing them how to use grab bars in their show­ers, or as com­plex as craft­ing a new dai­ly rou­tine now that they are no longer insti­tu­tion­al­ized,” shares Nicole.

A Holis­tic Approach to Men­tal Health

With the addi­tion of Occu­pa­tion­al Ther­a­pists to our team at KYC, we’re able to pro­vide per­son­al­ized wrap-around ser­vices to the peo­ple we serve. At KYC, we’re con­tin­u­ing to pro­mote the [OT] pro­fes­sion, and the need for this role as we fill in the gaps of clients’ needs,” shares Nicole, who has been with KYC for a year and a half. Our depart­ment has hired more Occu­pa­tion­al Ther­a­pists as Clin­i­cal Care Man­agers, a dif­fer­ent way to apply our pro­fes­sion’s skillset effec­tive­ly. Peo­ple at KYC real­ly do have an active com­mit­ment to a team approach – it’s boots on the ground and col­lab­o­ra­tive work – and have a goal in mind that we’re talk­ing togeth­er to work things out for clients. I give a huge shout-out to my team­mate and fel­low OT, Alyssa Dalei­den OTR/L, QMHP, and the rest of the Com­mu­ni­ty Liv­ing Team!”

Through our unique depth and breadth of ser­vices, KYC strives to con­nect com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers with all of the resources they need to live their best lives.

Cel­e­brat­ing Nicole

Nicole Blog Banner Instagram Post

KYC is proud to cel­e­brate all that Nicole has done to sup­port the peo­ple she serves, her team, and the OT pro­fes­sion­al com­mu­ni­ty. Con­grat­u­la­tions on your accep­tance to the AOTA Men­tal Health Com­mit­tee, and for all you do to help oth­ers thrive!

Careers at KYC

Ken­neth Young Cen­ter offers a vari­ety of career oppor­tu­ni­ties for tal­ent­ed pro­fes­sion­als look­ing to make an impact in our com­mu­ni­ties. Check out our open posi­tions if you’re look­ing to grow your career.


Previous Article Next Article
Get in Touch
You're Not Alone

Half
of us will expe­ri­ence some form of men­tal ill­ness in our lifetime

Get Involved

How You Can Help

Quote of the Week

Life isn’t about find­ing your­self. Life is about cre­at­ing yourself.

—George Bernard Shaw

Keep up to date with KYC!

Get the latest Kenneth Young Center news and insights emailed to you each month. Just complete the form below to subscribe.