An innovator in connecting mental health and function, occupational therapist Kim Barthel has dedicated herself to bridging disciplines and opening minds.
A proponent of “putting your mind in the mind of the other”, she teaches globally about understanding what’s behind complex behaviour. Her specialties include attachment, trauma, addiction, sensory processing, movement, and learning. Neurobiology is integral to Kim’s focus – because 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.
The fabric of Kim’s work and belief – directly and indirectly – is vast, from helping individuals to heal from sexual abuse to helping people with cerebral palsy move their bodies. With 30+ years experience as an OT, she carries a wealth of knowledge on many topics related to neurobiology, mental health and function. Kim’s overarching message to everyone in the helping professions is that “it’s not what you do but how you do it that matters”.
In 1989, Kim created the first,free-standing occupational therapy clinic in her hometown of Winnipeg, the first of its kind in Western Canada. Her private clinic “Labyrinth Therapies” quickly became multi-disciplinary and her workshop company “Labyrinth Journeys” facilitated ground-breaking training opportunities with innovative best practices. During the 90’s Kim traveled extensively to learn from specialists she valued, and this enabled her to build up not only her own expertise but a vast array of colleagues/friends also on the cutting edge of service provision in their chosen fields. Kim has a voracious appetite for knowledge and collaboration which has lead to an ever-expanding network of outstanding therapists, educators, researchers and organizations that provide services to those with special needs.
Following the receipt of her Bachelor of Medical Rehabilitation in Occupational Therapy in 1984 from the University of Manitoba, she invested her resources and time in her further professional learning. From this stage of about 15 intense years of traveling and gaining expertise, Kim was trained in a number of specialized techniques. Firstly, she learned NDT and is now an Advanced Neuro-Developmental Treatment OT Instructor with the NDTA, teaching therapists worldwide the facilitation of movement skills for children and adults who experience challenges moving their bodies. Related to understanding movement, her post graduate study in anatomy and neurobiology has further strengthened Kim’s practice. She has also completed many clinical intensives and certifications in Myofascial Release, Craniosacral Therapy and developmental biomechanics.
Sensory processing and the neurobiology of attachment, abuse and addiction are the emphasis of Kim’s current practice, writing and teaching. Certified in the S.I.P.T. and extensive clinical experience 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 to diverse populations, including children and adults with autism, attention deficit disorder, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, but also to populations with complex disorders that combine psychiatric etiology with attachment based challenges.
Over the past 20 years, Kim has worked in challenging environments and often complex scenarios. She has worked all across Canada and its Arctic, throughout the United States, and also (in alphabetic order to date) in Australia, Estonia, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Kosovo, Malaysia, People’s Republic of China, Singapore, and Trinidad and Tobago. She has supported people on Aboriginal reserves and in both remote communities and cities in many countries: in heart-breaking orphanages, after natural disasters, with people with developmental disabilities, with street kids, with child soldiers, with people who have trauma, and significant addictions. Kim has been blessed to be able to be helping countless people who have just about every kind of special need or mental health challenge imaginable. There has never been a lack of meaning in her professional career, and this passion is expanding.
In 2015, under the banner of Relationship Matters, which was co-founded with husband Bob Spensley, Kim significantly expanded the delivery of her own relational services. At this point these services primarily include speaking, teaching, writing and consulting, both in person and by distance. This takes her around the globe providing services for and partnering with private-clinics, school boards, hospitals, government agencies, universities, group homes, not-for-profit agencies, corporations, NGO’s and individuals.
As a writer, with Bob’s quiet support, Kim has written or contributed to several chapters in therapy textbooks, authored two books, and has more in process. In 2014, to encourage personal reflection, she co-authored the Canadian best-seller Conversations with a Rattlesnake with Theo Fleury and in 2004 she wrote Evidence and Art: Merging Forces in Pediatric Therapies. Her contributions in textbooks include a chapter on Occupational Therapy in Neuro-Developmental Treatment: A Guide to NDT Clinical Practice (2016), and a chapter on Neuro-Devleopmental Treatment in Frames of Reference for Pediatric Occupational Therapy, 3rd Edition (2009). Kim’s current books that are in process include Decoding the Autistic Brain, for Parents and another one supporting people who have lived through trauma also being co-authored by Theo Fleury and edited by Bob, entitled The Power of “Me Too”. A current textbook chapter is also in process, on early intervention in pediatric rehabilitation.
No matter where she is or with whom she is working, Kim’s mission is to support the conscious evolution of the human spirit.
For more info about Kim, you can find her on Facebook at ‘Kimberly Barthel’ or follow her on Twitter @kimbarthelOTR.