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Occupational Therapy


The day to day activities you ‘DO’ describe who you are and how you feel about yourself.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, low mood, anxiety and physical impairments can turn everyday activities into challenges which can reduce your ability to participate in the daily tasks and activities that are important to you.

In Occupational Therapy we look at different areas in a person’s life and work out what can be done to improve them. Our philosophy is to find out ‘What matters to you?’ instead of ‘What is the matter with you?’.

We always start by building a picture of a veteran’s Occupational Identity. We do this by asking questions around the kind of roles you value, the type of work you might like to do, your hobbies and interests, important relationships or how you would like to spend your time.

The Occupational Therapist will then assess your Occupational Competence, - which are all the things that may support or prevent you from functioning in the way that you would like. We take into consideration your strengths as well as your symptoms, disabilities, life circumstances and difficulties. We also take into account the unique environments in which you live, work and play. With this information, we start to build a picture of you, what you would like to achieve, your strengths and the obstacles that are in your way.

In treatment we can then assist you in structuring your activities and building a healthy routine. Once the structure is in place, we will work with you find meaningful and purposeful activities to add into your life to ensure balance between productivity, leisure and selfcare.

Working side-by-side with you, we help you set achievable goals, problem solve difficulties, find resources, add to your skills and build your confidence and resilience. See here how Sensory Modulation can be used to help you to feel in control, comfortable and able to do what matters to you.

We believe that in the doing, healing and recovery happens. As much as restoring physical and mental function, the Occupational Therapy team help to rebuild people’s lives.

Jolandi du Preez, Lead Occupational Therapist


The bottom-up approach to coping

Sensory Modulation is an approach that is used by the Occupational Therapy team at Combat Stress as part of the treatment that support veterans to feel in control, comfortable and able to do what matters to them.

Using our senses to change how we feel supports self-regulation – the ability to change arousal levels and make emotional adjustments necessary to stay in control in challenging situations and to function in life roles and relationships. Sensory input is especially helpful when our brain is not helping us out, for example when we are upset, distracted, anxious or stressed out. 

The Autonomic Nervous System controls our stress response. During a threat or perceived danger, it switches on the sympathetic nervous system (our fight, flight, freeze response), which is important to keep us safe. The brain can also trigger the body by thinking worrying thoughts and switch on this response – even when there is no threat.        

We can’t always use our brains to switch ‘off’ this response.  You can’t calm down by just thinking ‘calm down’. When we are stressed or upset our brain often goes ‘offline’ and can’t help us out.

However, we can use our bodies to trigger the calming part of our nervous system (parasympathetic system). Sensory input sends a message directly to your brain to either switch on or off “fight or flight” and get our brains back ‘online’ to make decisions and take actions– but does it from the bottom-up (Body-Mind Connection) as opposed to the top-down approach (Mind-Body Connection)



our sponsors

Thanks to funding from Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund, we’ve been able to introduce sensory modulation into our occupational therapy offer.  Have a look at our video to learn more about how sensory modulation works.

A key focus area of Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund is to improve mental health and build resilience to enable veterans and their families to build successful civilian lives. Funding this pioneering research helps to build the evidence base for this therapy and increase understanding of sensory modulation to benefit society, which is the perfect fit to meet our purpose

Jo Taylor, Responsible Business Manager, Lloyd’s

Using your own unique sensory profile, our Occupational Therapists can prescribe strategies, tools and methods individualised to you.

With veterans we have used sensory modulation to help them find ways to participate fully in the lives that matters to them – for example:

  • Using weighted blanket to improve sleep and weighted backpacks or vests to cope with public transport.
  • Designing an exercise routine using alerting exercise during the day to be more organised and alert; calming exercises in the evening to improve relaxation and sleep.
  • Finding the best job that suits their sensory profile or changing their work environment to improve productivity.
  • Providing strategies in the moment to cope with stressful situations, e.g. going shopping, participating in a trauma session or taking their son to a football match.

Sensory Modulation – strategies that are easy and accessible tools and methods that can calm and organise the brain to improve functioning.

Is there someone I can call and talk to?

Our Helpline is open 24/7, please do not hesitate to call if you need someone to talk to or any guidance. 

Combat Stress 24/7 Free Helpline 0800 138 1619 or email

If you require more urgent help, either yourself or a member of your family feel unsafe, please contact your GP or telephone 111.