As I am patiently waiting for grad school to start in September, I have decided to document my occupational therapy (OT) journey. By doing so, I hope to help anyone looking into OT as a career. I am starting “OT Chronicles” in the midst of Occupational Therapy Month (April) to advocate for the field of OT and to share my experiences with potential future OT professionals.
Disclaimer: Let it be known that “OT Chronicles” is meant to enlighten and share my current knowledge of the OT profession. Not every question regarding OT will be answered within these posts; however, I hope to enlighten whomever reads them to advocate for and teach others about this wonderful profession! Let’s begin with the basics!
What is Occupational Therapy?
Without quoting any direct sources, occupational therapy is branch of therapy that aims to assist individuals of all ages engage in activities (occupations) that they both want and need to engage in. Such occupations can be functional-based for successful living (i.e. showering, cooking, working, cleaning, caring for others, medication management, etc) or recreational (engaging in games/sports, age-based socialization skills, gardening, etc). Occupational therapy is a goal-oriented career field that helps individuals adapt to their environments so that they can accomplish what they need to do and what they want to do.
Who do OTs provide therapy to?
OTs work with populations throughout the entire lifespan. Children, adults, and the geriatric population can all benefit from OT when a therapy need arises.
Where do OTs work?
You can find OTs working in early intervention programs (children birth to 3 years old), schools, in-patient and out-patient rehabilitation centers, senior living communities, skilled nursing facilities, or hospitals. OTs can also provide home health services. OTs can also have a career as a traveling therapist which provides an opportunity to continuously work in a variety of environments. The occupational therapy field provides a broad array of settings allowing for a variety of skill sets, environment preferences, and population preferences.
OT through the Lifespan:
Children with developmental disorders, behavioral issues, or cognitives or physical delays oftentimes work with occupational therapists through early intervention or in a school environment. OTs working with children typically focus on fine and gross motor skills, communication skills, self-care, and learning how to play/interact with others.
OTs work with adults who have experienced severe injuries, who are recovering from surgery, and who have chronic diseases, mental or physical disabilities, eating disorders, the list is lengthy. OTs working with adults typically focus on activities of daily living (ADLs) skills, return-to-work skills (when applicable), social skills, engaging in individualized meaningful activities, and the use of adaptive skills for safe and effective occupations.
OTs who work with the geriatric population typically work with individuals who have experienced severe injuries, who are recovering from surgery, who have chronic diseases or physical disabilities, or who are experiencing cognitive/memory loss. OTs working with geriatrics focus on accomplishing ADLS, maintaining or improving levels of independence, engaging in self-care, maintaining cognitive abilities and memory, and engaging in meaningful activities important to the individual.
Why choose OT as a career?
Everyone has a different reason they decided to become an occupational therapist. I’m not going to share all of those different reasons with you today; however, I will share with you my reason for pursuing OT. I hosted a balance workshop during my short stint at a fitness center. I began researching creative exercises for improving balance and I came across several videos involving OTs. BAM! The field of occupational therapy was nearly jumping out of the computer screen at me!
At the time of this balance workshop, I was feeling shorted for a dead-end career path. I knew I needed something more. After researching the field of OT, I discovered how much OT matched with my functional approach to exercises, my desire for a career with endless opportunities for compassion, and my personal ambition to make a difference in the lives of individuals I interact with. Occupational therapy seemed like a perfect match for me.
So, with that being said, I resigned from my job at the fitness center and put all of my energy towards learning more about OT, applying to grad school, and pursuing the field of occupational therapy.
Here I am now, 5 months away from starting grad school. I’ve written my 1st ever blog post for “OT Chronicles” & hopefully I’ve enlightened the people who thought that occupational therapists just help people find jobs. Wrong, very wrong….. stay tuned for more chapters of “OT Chronicles”!