Becoming a Certified Sleep Consultant as an Occupational Therapist - Become a Sleep Consultant
Updated: Oct 28
No matter your current occupation, as a mom, you may be looking for a change.
Whether you want something more flexible, something to do as a “side hustle”, or something just to call your own, we’d encourage you to look into becoming a sleep consultant.
As a certified sleep consultant, you have the option to work part-time or full time, from home, and by making your own schedule. It’s the ultimate gig for moms who want to work from home AND raise their babies! And, the best part is, you can help other families (with the life-changing experience of teaching their little one to sleep) while helping your own (flexibility + monetarily).
In this post, we’ve interviewed Mary Formella, a pediatric certified sleep consultant and a licensed Occupational Therapist (OT) who’s goal is to help families get the rest they deserve while serving them with her research-based knowledge.
Let’s dive in!
As an Occupational Therapist, an add-on sleep consultant certification seems like a no-brainer. Can you share more about your decision to add this certification to your credentials?
As an OT, Mary worked with pediatrics, and ofter heard parents share their concerns about their children’s sleep, or rather, lack thereof.
“When I was working with children as an occupational therapist (OT), many parents would express difficulty with their child’s sleep. As an OT it was easy for me to give them ideas and things to try from an occupational therapy perspective (heavy work before bed, joint compressions, sensory friendly clothing, and more), but I was never taught in my occupational therapy program the science behind sleep, wake windows, average sleep needs, how many naps a child needs on average and when they should be and how to help a child learn independent sleep skills. It is extremely hard to address sleep with children who are receiving OT services without also having a solid foundation in pediatric sleep. Becoming a sleep consultant allowed me to gain the knowledge I needed to feel confident in helping children with sleep who also receive OT services.”
So, not only does Mary have the knowledge to serve all families struggling with their child’s sleep issues, but especially those who also would benefit from OT services, such as those with a sensory processing disorder and/or autism spectrum disorder.
How do your skills as an Occupational Therapist help you with your sleep consulting clients? Can you give a few examples?
Mary shares, “One of the biggest skills as an OT that has helped me with sleep consulting clients is something called ‘therapeutic use of self.’ As an OT I use therapeutic use of self with every client I work with. Therapeutic use of self requires me to form a strong and solid foundation with my clients through trust, empathy, and listening. From the first conversation I have with potential sleep clients and then throughout our time together I spend a lot of time building a relationship with them through therapeutic use of self. I validate my clients’ feelings regarding their child’s sleep, I am empathetic, and I repeat back to them a summary of what they have expressed to me.
Another skill I use often is what is referred to as “client centered goals” in the OT world. When I work with clients both as an OT and as a sleep consultant I never create goals for my clients without discussing what their goals are. As a mom myself I have had certain sleep goals for both of my children but my goals and what I want for my family may not be what a client is looking for. For example, some of my sleep clients will come to me and say “I don’t mind assisting for naps” or “I don’t mind if naps aren’t great but I would really like a solid night sleep.” Great! Let’s do it! I give this response in spite of the fact that with my own children, I always wanted both good naps and solid night sleep.
A team approach is also a skill I find that I use a lot as both an OT and a sleep consultant. Oftentimes as an OT I work closely with other practitioners, physical therapists, speech therapists, nurses, and doctors. We work closely together to ensure we are providing the best care possible for our clients. The same applies for me when working with sleep consulting clients. I always ask my sleep consulting clients if they are working with other professionals, from lactation consultants to chiropractors, physical therapists (PT), OT, feeding therapists, craniosacral therapists and many more. I am very fortunate to have formed many relationships in the Charlotte area with other perinatal providers so when I have a client who is working with lactation or PT/OT and/or feeding therapists I sometimes will reach out to the other provider (with the client’s permission) to discuss how sleep may be impacting other areas of my client’s or my client’s child’s life.
Occupational therapy is a very holistic practice. As an OT I look at the big picture when treating my clients, I don’t simply look at one deficit and only focus on that one thing. The same goes for my sleep consulting clients. For example, if I have a client who has indicated that their child snores or has an open mouth posture when sleeping and/or has a history of oral ties, I will oftentimes refer them to a therapist in the area who has additional extensive training in treating the airway and oral motor/oral ties because we know that for sleep we want close mouth breathing. If a child cannot breathe correctly I can do all the things in the world from a sleep consultant perspective and that child still may not sleep “well” because they cannot optimally breathe.
As an OT I have received extensive training in behavioral aspects of pediatric clients and sensory integration. I also continue to participate in continuing education to further my knowledge in both of these areas. Many times when addressing a child’s sleep, especially older children, there are often behavioral components that are influencing sleep as well. Having additional training in how to address behavioral challenges only helps provide a well rounded sleep plan for the child. Also, many children with ADHD, autism spectrum and sensory processing disorder have sensory needs that need to be addressed when considering sleep. If you aren’t addressing that child’s sensory needs it may impact how successful sleep training is with that client.”
In opposition, do you feel your sleep consulting certification helps you in your work as an Occupational Therapist?
“Yes! I do! As I stated above, it is very difficult to address pediatric sleep when you do not have the knowledge or foundation of pediatric sleep. Having this certification allows me to treat my patients very holistically, not just from an occupational therapy perspective, but from a sleep perspective as well. When I was in school for my masters in OT we didn’t learn much about sleep besides the fact that it is ‘important’.”
We agree with Mary; Sleep IS important - in fact, it’s a pillar of our health and well-being as human beings, and it’s just as important, if not moreso, than nutrition.
How did you feel about the training from The Collective for Family Rest and Wellness to become a certified sleep consultant?
“When I was researching what course I wanted to receive my sleep consulting training through, one thing that was important to me was finding a sleep consultant certification course that provides evidence based support or evidence based practices. As an OT I rely heavily on the most up to date research when it comes to best practice for my clients and so I wanted the same to hold true for my sleep consultant certification. I really love the amount of specific research that is cited through the training course. In most sections of the training, additional research articles are listed for further reading. I also like how continuing education sessions are offered as a graduate of the program so I can continue to stay on top of my skills. I felt very prepared to take on clients upon completion of the course. I also had many of my client materials prepared ahead of time as creating client material was part of the course.”
What can we say?? We like to make things as easy as possible for our students to find exactly what they need in order to be successful, and we’ve been very mindful of how we set up our sleep consultant certification course.
What would you tell other Occupational Therapists who are considering adding a sleep consultant certification to their repertoire?
Mary shares her insight: “I would say it is a 100% value add. As OTs know, sleep is an occupation in our framework. Sleep is the foundation of everything we do as occupational therapists. If you are treating a child who is not sleeping it is going to impact every single aspect of what you are working towards with that child. A child who does not sleep is going to have difficulty performing everyday activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living. A child who has emotional regulation difficulties will likely not succeed in symptom management until sleep is addressed and that child is getting adequate restful, restorative sleep. Without knowing the foundation and science behind pediatric sleep it can be challenging to help your client achieve sleep.”
Tell us more about your business and the packages you are able to offer with your background and education. Where can people find you and connect with you?
“My business is currently virtual support only, but that means I can help you wherever you are in the US! As stated above I really like taking a team approach when it comes to addressing my client’s sleep needs so if you have a child who is receiving occupational therapy treatment for something or receiving therapy in another form (ABA, PT, SLP, Feeding therapy) I will happily take the time to speak to your child’s treatment team to discuss how we can all work together to ensure your child is able to get the best sleep possible!
Right now I have 3 customized sleep packages and an ask me anything call. However, if after talking with a potential client I feel their needs do not fit into one of my packages, I work with the client to determine what will work for them.
If you would like to know more about me, my process and my sleep packages feel free to check out my website.
You can also reach out via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are an OT or an occupational therapist assistant considering pursuing a sleep consulting certification and would like to chat more feel free to reach out via email! I would love to connect!”
Mary has been an amazing addition to our students and graduates of the Sleep Consultant Academy from The Collective for Family Rest and Wellness. If you’re in the OT field and are considering adding a sleep consultant certification to your credentials, we highly recommend speaking with her or reaching out to us to learn more about the program.
Why an Occupational Therapist Would Make a Great Sleep Consultant
You approach your work to all your clients similarly…looking at each situation holistically.
Mary shared about this in her interview questions above, but we’d be doing a disservice if we didn’t mention it again.
When looking at a child’s sleep struggles, it’s important to consider things holistically, looking at the child from every angle.
Occupational Therapists already approach their work in this way, and in our sleep consultant certification program, we share that mindset when it comes to working with families.
You care about the well-being of the families you work with.
Obviously, one of the reasons (at least we hope!) you became an OT was to help families because you care about their well-being. It’s the same with sleep.
As certified sleep consultants, we want everyone to thrive because they’re getting the sleep they need to grow and develop into healthy human beings.
You have already established relationships with families who you’ve worked with.
Think about it - you’ve already established relationships with many of your OT clients, and if one of them happens to mention that their child is struggling with sleep, well, you’ve got a solution for them!
And, since you’ve already established a relationship with them and their child, they’re hire you for your sleep consulting services as well
Ready to move into the freedom and flexibility that being a business owner offers?
Maybe you LOVE what you do as an OT.
Or, maybe you’re looking for a change.
Either way, starting your own business as a certified sleep consultant can serve you however you need it to. It can be supplemental, or it can be something you do full-time.
How The Collective for Family Rest and Wellness Can Help You
Not sure about the education you need to serve families from an evidence-based and holistic approach to sleep? Look no further than the Sleep Consultant Academy from The Collective for Family Rest and Wellness!
In our course, you will find
Sleep prerequisite knowledge to help with your foundational knowledge of sleep science
Considerations for working with different age levels
Knowledge of working with families
Training on starting and building a business
We know you’re busy, so we’ve created this course to fit into your life. It is self-paced and can be completed on your own time. As soon as you’re in, you’ll be added to our private student and graduate Facebook group and have lifetime access to the course and continuing education.
You can learn all about our course here.