Next week is national occupational therapy week, November 7 – 13th2016, #OTweek16 for those Tweeters out there.
So prior to its launch on Monday I’m offering you the opportunity to have an insight into this lesser understood, enigmatic profession. So pour yourself a contemplative cuppa and have a read.
Occupational therapy is a science degree-based health and social care profession, regulated by the Health Care Professions Council. It is one of the ten allied health professions. You can train to either degree or masters level, at any of three universities across Scotland.
Occupational therapy takes a whole-person approach to both mental and physical health and wellbeing, enabling individuals to achieve their full potential.
We work with children and adults across a variety of settings including health organizations, social care services, housing, education, re-employment schemes, occupational health, prisons, and voluntary organizations or as independent practitioners.
So what does that mean, what do occupational therapists actually do?
Well, as occupational therapists we think about “occupation” as any activity any of us does day to day, which is important, necessary or which we enjoy.
The range of “occupation” is endless. If I use myself as an example some of my daily “occupations” would be putting on my clothes in the morning, reading my emails at work, making a meal for my family, riding my bicycle.
The occupational therapists job is to consider how, if I was the service user, the changes in my mental or physical health are making it difficult for me to be able to do these “occupations”- the things I want or need to do day to day.
They need to understand what’s important to me in my life? What would allow me to stay in control and live my life my way?
So for example in order to help me to keep riding my bike after an episode of depression the occupational therapist will problem solve and adapt either:
–the activity itself: maybe I should try going out for 10minutes, twice a week, with a close friend who also bikes, somewhere that’s easy to access and doesn’t take long to get there, with a nice coffee shop on the way back
–the surrounding environment and tools I use: maybe a tarmac cycle route would be easier, at a quiet time of day, and my bike could do with a service first so it’s working properly (they help me think through planning and organizing that)
–me: set SMART goals which I can achieve, to keep me motivated, help me think about what I value about biking and help me understand and make the link between doing an activity I enjoy and feeling better about and improving my mental health
So back to that question again “what do occupational therapists do?”
I guess the bottom line is it ends up looking different each time, as we are all different as people and what’s an important “occupation” to me may not be important to you.
And we work in so many different settings, with different age groups of people, that that also makes what we “do” look different.
Ultimately it isn’t what the occupational therapist “does” that matters, rather what the person ends up being able to do that’s important.
So for occupational therapy week this year I’ll leave you with this thought,
“With occupational therapy you CAN….”
Wendy Chambers is Team Lead Occupational Therapist for Mental Health and Learning Disability Service at NHS Dumfries and Galloway