STARR Experts

Practitioner Profile – Kim Barthel: OT & Neurobiology

Kim Barthel

OTR, Mental Health Occupational Therapist

International Speaker and Teacher of Therapists, Educators and Professionals, Co-Author of Canadian Best-Seller: Conversations with a Rattlesnake

Kim’s Bio:

Kim is a bridge between the science of neurobiology, mental health, and everyday function. A proponent of “putting your mind in the mind of the other,” she teaches globally about understanding what is behind complex behaviour. Her specialties include attachment, trauma, addiction, sensory processing, movement and learning how we learn and how we heal.  Kim’s process of helping people to become behavioural detectives is based on 30+ years of actively integrating a wide range of trans-disciplinary perspectives, through both a scientific and a compassionate lens. She makes a compelling case that “There is always a reason for the behaviour” and “We are all doing the best we can with what we have” and she shares the bottomline with caregivers world-wide that “It’s not what you do but how you do it that matters”.

Related to healing from trauma and abuse, Kim co-wrote the Canadian best-seller Conversations with a Rattlesnake with her close friend, fellow mental wellness advocate and member of this Global Mental Health Alliance, Theo Fleury. It puts cutting-edge therapeutic concepts into language everyone can digest, and as a lived experience, it reveals the awesome (and underrated) power of attuned relationship.

According to Kim, why specific forms of Occupational Therapy work to improve mental health:

Sensory processing and the neurobiology of attachment, abuse and addiction are the emphasis of Kim’s current practice, writing and teaching and are at the core of why she believes hands-on OT works to improve mental wellbeing.  Certified in S.I.P.T. and having extensive clinical experience being mentored by master clinicians has lead Kim to develop expertise in Sensory Integration Therapy and what she calls “Sensory Processing Intervention.”  Kim began studying sensory processing in 1982 while in university and has relentlessly researched, practiced and expanded her ideas in this field since those early days. Kim has brought the concepts of sensory processing through OT techniques to diverse populations, including children and adults with autism, attention deficit disorder, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and also to populations with complex disorders that combine psychiatric etiology with attachment based challenges. This is OT for the rewiring and releasing of trauma from our brains, and not traditional OT as most of us have come to know it.

The more we understand how the brain works, the more we can feel compassion for ourselves and others, naturally reducing the shame and division between us and actually making it healthier and improving its function.

Kim’s Resource Recommendations:

websites: – a website shared between Kim and Theo Fleury, it provides regular blogs on healing and a growing on-line community presence with twitter chats and info that supports mental wellness – Kim’s website that illustrates the workshops she offers, with a wide range of therapy-related resources and blogs – Helping support a truly inspirational community in the remote Himalayas of India that teaches all of us about compassion in action; see the multiple award winning documentary, Tashi and the Monk

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