When I think about “what Occupational Therapy means to me?” I think OT is about “possibility.”
Occupational Therapy defined
I always define Occupational Therapy (OT) as “everything a person does is an occupation, I’m there to work with them to do it as best they can”. This broad definition of “occupation” is what made me want to be an Occupational Therapist, I wanted to help people to do what was most meaningful to them, and to witness someone feel they have a better life.
What is meaningful activity?
I heard all the jokes and judgement from the healthcare workforce as a student on placement; “basket weavers,” “knows how to prescribe a shower stool,” and all of them are true.
Whilst I don’t have the skills to weave a basket, I would be happy to learn, if it meant something to someone to learn how to, when they are having difficulty weaving a basket.
To each of us, doing an activity that is meaningful to us doesn’t mean it has to be only an activity that “sparks joy.” Activities that are very meaningful to us are sometimes mundane like brushing our teeth, picking up a wrapper we dropped on the floor or driving in traffic to get to work in the morning. It is when we can’t do it, we realise how important and meaningful that activity is.
I witnessed the joy the person had in doing it for themselves!
Before I embarked on my career as an Occupational Therapist, I knew I wanted to work with people with disability. Prior to graduating, I had the privilege to work as a Disability Support Worker, which was great! It wasn’t glamorous like working at Myer, but it was definitely satisfying. I got to cook with people, jump on the trampoline, learn how to use sign language, and even master my laundry skills before leaving my parents’ home.
When it came to working as an Occupational Therapist, I knew who I wanted to work with, and lucky for me it didn’t disappoint! As an Occupational Therapist, I felt like the skills and development were endless, a constant growth.
I worked with people to be able to shower by themselves, make a meal for themselves, safely go out into their local community, and most importantly, I witnessed the joy the person had in doing it for themselves.
Learning to research has made my everyday practice better!
As an Occupational Therapist, you learn so much about a person when you work with them. You learn a lot of personal details about them, their lives, and their relationships. You also learn that not one person is the same, how you worked with one person, is not the same as working with another.
This can trigger questions about how we work with the people we work with, how we can better work with them, and what we need to do to make our work better.
That is how I began to think about research, I wanted to learn more, understand better and make the changes to my practice to work better with people with disabilities. Learning to research has made my everyday practice better, I reflect more, I know how to find information better and the people I work with have a better outcome because of it.
When I think about “what OT means to me?” I think OT is about “possibility.”
When I think about “what Occupational Therapy means to me?” I think Occupational Therapy is about “possibility.” Possibility for the people I work with to live better, have more independence, and feel happier. The possibility to learn more, to grow and to innovate, which means we can help more people, be more impactful and make the positive change we need to for the people we work with. Occupational Therapy is a great career for all the right reasons, and the possibilities this career has enabled me to achieve both personally and professionally has been great.
Happy OT week!!
Hearth Allied Health – Manager of Occupational Therapy, Research, and Innovation