Pre-Conference Workshops

Tuesday, June 19 & Wednesday, June 20 8:30-16:30

This two-day interactive workshop equips occupational therapists with the fundaments to increase their competence and confidence in using two evidence-informed interventions for clients with anxiety: relaxation skills training and exposure therapy.

Day 1 of this two-day workshop focuses on the nature of stress and anxiety, the point at which anxiety becomes an anxiety disorder, and training in a set of relaxation therapy skills to assist clients in managing their own stress response. The emphasis is on diaphragmatic breathing training, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), and passive relaxation.  Participants will experience each of the techniques themselves and engage in practice simulation in dyads and receive feedback and recommendations on technique.

Day 2 focuses on the use of exposure therapy, the foundation of evidence-based intervention for each of the anxiety disorders. Although seemingly straightforward, the effectiveness of exposure therapy decreases dramatically when several basic tenets are not followed. This session provides guidelines for effective exposure therapy and provides participants with practice in hierarchy development. The concepts covered in the workshop are adapted to exposure with specific phobia, social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and post-traumatic stress. Participants learn the strategies, then conduct several simulations in triads to develop treatment plans for several presenting problems.

Participants receive a package of resource materials including presentation notes, over 30 pages of handouts for clients, a set of five relaxation training scripts, a guide to running a 6-session relaxation skills group if desired, and an audio CD that can be reproduced for clients for home practice. 

Workshop topics:

Day 1: Stress, anxiety and relaxation skills training

  • The nature of the human stress response
  • Links between stress, anxiety, and the anxiety disorders
  • Rationale and context for relaxation training techniques
  • Diaphragmatic breathing training for self and clients
  • Relaxation and emotional acceptance
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) training
  • Passive relaxation training
  • Links between relaxation-based and mindfulness-based approaches
  • Cue-controlled relaxation procedures for managing stress in real-world settings
  • Troubleshooting relaxation: Problems to watch out for in clients

Day 2:  Conducting effective exposure therapy

  • The development and theory of exposure therapy
  • The Zones of Comfort rationale
  • The Therapeutic Window model for extended exposure
  • The use of Subjective Units of Distress (SUDs) in exposure work
  • The creation of exposure hierarchies
  • Creative strategies for imaginal and in vivo exposure exercises
  • The behavioural experiment: Integrating cognitive strategies with exposure
  • Accelerating change: Integrating relaxation strategies with exposure

Goals and learning objectives:

After taking part in this workshop, participants will: 

  1. Utilize three relaxation training techniques with clients.
  2. Explain the clinical reasoning for selecting a relaxation training technique with a given client.
  3. Explain the tenets of effective exposure therapy.
  4. Develop exposure hierarchies for a variety of clients with anxiety.
  5. Compare imaginal and in vivo exposure exercises.
  6. Integrate relaxation strategies with exposure therapy.

Target audience:

This workshop is intended for occupational therapist clinicians who wish to increase their confidence and competence in using effective exposure-based techniques and relaxation skills with clients with anxiety (including specific phobia, social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety, panic disorder, agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder). Participants are expected to have a foundation on different types of anxiety disorders.

Please note: Each participant is responsible to ensure they apply the information within the context of their licensure, provincial/territorial legislations, institution regulations, scope of practice, etc. 

Areas of practice
Mental health

Client age groups
School age children (5-12 years), adolescents (13-19 years), adults (20-64 years), seniors (65 years +)

Workshop level:

Intermediate (3-5 years of experience in this specific area of practice) 


Randy Paterson, PhD, RPsych

Randy Paterson, PhD, RPsych (British Columbia 01105) is a psychologist, consultant, and author in Vancouver Canada. He is the Director of Changeways Clinic, a private outpatient service specializing in the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders. He has published and presented in the areas of attention, stress and information processing, attachment theory, and depression. Since 1992 Dr Paterson has been conducting therapist training programs on diverse topics, including the treatment of depression and the anxiety disorders, assertiveness skills, private practice management, and sexual orientation issues. He has presented over 200 therapist training seminars in Canada, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. He was the 2008 recipient of the Canadian Psychological Association’s Distinguished Practitioner award. Dr Paterson’s blog on mental health and psychotherapy issues can be viewed at 

Cost: prices vary - view fee schedule

Tuesday, June 19 13:00-16:30
Wednesday, June 20 8:30-16:30

This hands-on workshop is intended for experienced occupational therapists who wish to enhance their use of evidence-based occupational therapy interventions for cognitive rehabilitation after stroke and brain injury. The current clinical guidelines for cognitive rehabilitation and the evidence underpinning them will be presented and then translated into processes that can be readily implemented by occupational therapists following the workshop. Through group discussions and practical exercises, participants will have the opportunity to practice using a decision-tree to determine which assessments and interventions to use with a variety of case studies.

Learning objectives

By the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify the general guidelines for 1) occupational therapy assessment of cognition, 2) the use of external memory strategies, 3) the use of feedback strategies to increase awareness, and 4) goal-directed therapies for adults who sustained a stroke or brain injury.
  2. Use a decision-tree to assist in determining which assessments and cognitive rehabilitation approaches to implement.
  3. Describe techniques for improving insight, awareness and functional memory.
  4. Prepare a clinical intervention program for carrying out the interventions to improve insight, awareness and functional memory in their own setting.
  5. Understand the evidence concerning the effectiveness of cognitive rehabilitation in the selection and implementation of an occupational therapy intervention program for adults who sustained a stroke or brain injury.

Workshop topics

Day 1

  • Cognitive rehabilitation framework for occupational therapists
  • Clinical practice guideline recommendations
  • Goal setting using decision making trees
  • Occupational framework for cognitive assessment
  • Memory rehabilitation: selecting compensatory interventions
  • Memory rehabilitation: developing a technology-based compensation program

Day 2

  • Executive function impairment (e.g., impaired self-awareness/insight) with evidence on rehabilitation strategies.
  • Rehabilitation for improving executive functioning
  • Embedding meaningful occupational tasks into cognitive rehabilitation: case study

Occupational therapists and other health professionals with at least 5 years of experience in cognitive rehabilitation who wish to enhance their use of evidence-based cognitive rehabilitation interventions with adults and older adults who sustained a stroke or brain injury.

Please note: Each participant is responsible to ensure they apply the information within the context of their licensure, provincial/territorial legislations, institution regulations, scope of practice, etc.

Areas of practice: 

Client age groups: Adults (20-64 years), seniors (65 years +)

Workshop level

Advanced (More than 5 years of experience in cognitive rehabilitation)


Julia Schmidt, PhD, University of British Columbia, Canada (Faculty of Medicine) and La Trobe University (Occupational Therapy Department). Julia is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia’s Brain Behaviour Laboratory. She has over ten years of clinical experience in neurological rehabilitation, during which she identified critical gaps in cognitive rehabilitation evidence, which inform her research questions. Julia completed her PhD at the University of Queensland focusing on the efficacy of interventions for impaired self-awareness. Her current research interests are to understand how changes in the brain after injury impact a person’s function and everyday life and develop effective cognitive interventions for people after brain impairment. Julia has facilitated multiple workshops, presented her research at international and national conferences, and has many publications on cognitive rehabilitation in high-ranking journals.

Emma Schneider, PhD candidate (La Trobe University), and Alfred Health (Occupational Therapy Department). Emma is a senior occupational therapist at the Alfred Health Acquired Brain Injury Unit (Melbourne) where she participates in brain injury rehabilitation research. Emma has over ten years of clinical experience in neurological rehabilitation. As a senior clinician, she provides regular education and leadership to allied health clinicians in the areas of upper limb rehabilitation, cognitive rehabilitation, and evidence based practice. She has a particular interest in the implementation of evidence based practice to improve activity and participation outcomes for adults after brain injury.

Content also developed in collaboration with A/Professor Natasha A. Lannin

Costs:  prices vary - view fee schedule 

Wednesday, June 20 13:00-16:30

Introduction: Makers Making Change(MMC) connects makers to people with disabilities to create affordable open source assistive technologies.   

Objectives: Participants will learn “maker skills” to expand their practice; they will learn to solder, create a simple switch circuit, as well 3d modelling can be used to create customized AT solutions. Participants will also learn how our online network can support OT’s and their clients to access low cost community built Assistive Devices through engaging maker volunteers in their community.

Approach: After an initial session introduction, participants move freely between activities where they can spend as much or as little time as they would like to try out the skills of their choice.

Practice Implications:  OT’s will engage with maker culture to learn to new skills like soldering and creating a simple switch circuit. Occupational Therapists will learn about MMC’s Open Source Assistive Device Library,  and will learn how MMC’s website can support clients by connecting them to the community of volunteer makers offering their time to 3D print devices created for people in their community; this person to person model reduces cost of assistive devices significantly.  OT’s can also sign up on the MMC site to gain access to professional development workshops to build on their professional knowledge base to provide more possible solutions to their clients access issues.

Conclusion: Engaging with the tools and technology of maker culture gives Disability Professionals a broader skillbase to draw on in order to better serve and connect their clients to devices, technology and services. Connecting OT’s and people with disabilities through Makers Making Change’s MatchMaking service builds community, creates access to low cost 3d printed assistive devices and provides Disability Professionals support in expanding their network, personal practice, knowledge and skills.

Table 1:           Switch Prototype (using a Makey Makey and Tinfoil)

Table 2:           How to Solder; create a switch input

Table 3:           Open Source Library Show and Tell

Table 4:           Intro to 3d printing

Costs: Complimentary (limited to 30 participants.)

Presenter: Zee Kelser

I coordinate the day to day tasks of the Regional Managers, assist with events and strategize the implementation of MMC along with Chad and Harry.

About Me: I am a "Maker Educator" and I have been involved in the Maker Education Initiative since the first Vancouver Mini Maker Faire event 8 years ago. I'm also the co-founder/founder of 2 mobile classrooms; the MakerMobile: a mobile hackspace and the Magic Trout Imaginarium: a mobile classroom in a tiny house. I run a "side hustle" business hosting professional development workshops for teachers.

Why I work w/ MMC: I recently found out I have a connective tissue disorder(Ehlers Danlos Syndrome), so decided to get involved with Makers Making Change as a way to get more comfortable with 'having a disability', but also because I love maker culture, crowd sourcing ideas, creating community and being involved in innovative social programming.

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