The month of October represents a lot of different things for different people. Halloween decorating begins, the leaves start to change, fall activities are engaged in, it’s #PSL season, and different organizations and issues are brought to awareness. All of these parts of October are more or less significant to people depending on how meaningful they are. Often traditions of apple picking and visiting pumpkin patches bring the feeling of love, fall cooking can help you bring warmth to your home, a warm fall drink might help you connect with friends or “treat yourself”, and you may resonate with an awareness month theme more depending on what you’ve experienced.
October is also Occupational Therapy month!
Occupational therapy is a profession that many people don’t know too much about. Our scope of practice is so broad that throughout our master’s degree, we practice explaining what we do. If you know what an occupational therapist (OT) done, you most likely only know a small portion of who we work with and what our role can look like because of the context of your interaction. For example, if you met an occupational therapist on your family member’s care team who was in the inpatient unit of a hospital, you most likely will think of an OT in hospital, helping get your family member ready to go home safely or to a rehabilitation unit. If you or someone you know has had a workplace injury, you might know OT’s to help people return back to work safely, perhaps helping modify the workplace, work with insurance to get assistive devices, or provide strategies for you to work safer. But did you know that OT’s can work with everyone from babies to elderly people and everyone in between?
Occupational therapists have some pretty job specific language, which sometimes can be a bit confusing when it comes to recognizing when an OT might be helpful to see. Let’s look at a couple words and their meanings in the OT context:
Occupation – In our day to day vocabulary, occupation usually means what you do for work, which is why most people think that occupational therapists help you with job related tasks (partially true!). In the OT terminology however, Occupation looks at any activity that we do in the day, the things that we need to do, want to do or are expected to do. Thinking of occupation in this sense, OTs can help you to achieve anything you need to! Cooking, eating, dressing, cleaning, going to work, going to school, participating in social activities or leisure activities like painting, playing instruments etc! This is why OTs can be an important resource for anyone at any age!
Meaning – Often times, Occupational therapists will talk about working on things that are meaningful. In an ideal, client centred practice, an occupational therapist is referring to activities that are meaningful specifically to YOU. So if you could care less about being able to prepare anything more complex than a peanut butter sandwich, you will most likely focus on goals that are more meaningful to you!
Leisure – In OT school we learn that we need to have a balance of self care, productivity and leisure activities in our lives to maintain our wellbeing. Leisure is categorized as a preferred activity that is non obligatory, and that you do just because you are motivated to do it. This can include both the exploration and participation in these activities. So for example, engaging in art might include creating your own art, or going to the art gallery to learn about art! These categories are different for everyone but this is a general definition
Self Care – This is a term that is thrown around on social media a LOT. It often is referring to doing something nice for yourself to take care of your mental health, and often examples show people taking bubble baths or reading a book in a room full of candles. In occupational therapy definitions, self care is much broader than this. It is anything that you do to care for yourself – this can include the basic activity of eating. Occupational therapists can help you learn, relearn or modify the way you eat, dress, bathe, sleep etc! So looking at it broadly, if you are seeing an OT for your mental health and scheduling time to take a bubble bath or engage in yoga is something that helps you, perhaps you’d be working with your OT to help make those things happen!
Productivity – This term often gets connected with work and making money, which is true but not complete. Depending who the individual is and what their situation is, productivity might include work and job performance. It could also include anything that makes you feel productive including volunteering, employment seeking, applying for a job, and maintaining a household (ex: cleaning, paying bills, household repairs etc)
Social Participation – Often times, and we have seen this a lot in COVID times, people who experience loneliness can experience disconnection and decrease in mental health. OTs often work with people to help them engage in a variety of different occupations (remember: activities) that support interaction with other people. This could include family and friends, also community and meeting new people!
Where do Occupational therapists work?
Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings, and in each setting they have different roles and scopes of practice. Occupational therapists can be found in hospitals, home care, private practices, clinics, community mental health centres, workers compensation boards and in long term care facilities. There are occupational therapists that work in the community, meaning they will travel to your home to help you modify your home to be more accessible, or to prescribe you a wheelchair or assistive device. You can find them in schools, insurance firms, architectural companies and in all levels of government advising in the areas of health promotion … the list goes on. Right now, my practice happens virtually with children and their parents!
Basically, OTs can work anywhere and with anyone! Over this next month, I’ll be writing more about what Occupational therapists do, where they practice and what common practices they might use with different populations.
Have you had an experience with an occupational therapist you’d like to share? Do you have any questions about occupational therapy? Feel free to leave your questions or stories in the comments or send me a message!
More of my OT related blogs to check out!
- “Occupational therapy… So you do physio?” And why you’re right but only just.
- The Role of Occupational Therapists: ACT teams
- Redefining Productivity During Quarantine
- The Benefits of Colouring for Children
- Acknowledging and Validating the experience of anxiety in children and teens
- Play time – It’s not just all fun and games!
- What skills do Occupational therapists bring to your life?
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