I’ve been practicing as an Occupational Therapist since 2019, and since I started, I’ve had quite a few different experiences on different teams. As Occupational therapists, we often find ourselves working in teams with either lots of other OTs where the field is developed and there are specific guidelines and frameworks for our specific job, and then others end up being the only OT on site and part of the development of the role of OT.
When I started seeking out my ideal role, I found myself attracted to the areas where I was either the only OT, working very independently or part of the creation and development of the role of OT. In the last year, I’ve fallen into the deep passion of utilizing nature in my occupational therapy practice as an environment and a tool. This is a very newly emerging field, but I found a lot of research outside of the occupational therapy literature for children and adults, as well as a handful of nature based occupational therapists sharing their experiences and knowledge on social media and online.
On the last weekend of August, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting a bunch of these amazing individuals at Grounded to Grow OT, the first retreat bringing a bunch of North American nature based OTs together to learn and share! I feel that this was a beautiful and important experience to share to spread the message that if you are thinking about utilizing nature in your practice or you already are, there are more OTs out there just like you to connect with !!
It’s been a few weeks since this retreat, but it really took me some time to sit and process the entire weekend and all the amazing connections I got to create and everything I learned. The set up of this retreat was one of my favourite ways to learn, as each practicing OT had time to share something from their practice that they are passionate about, but in a FUNCTIONAL way. There was so much passion and excitement shared, AND everyone who presented had some sort of take away so that you actually had something to implement in your practice when you returned home. In past professional development sessions I’ve been in, I have left with research but nothing tangible to use right away. It has been a couple weeks and I’ve already used so much we learned about. We explored the use of gardening, board games, art and creation as therapeutic tools to connect our clients to nature as we are working with them. I had the opportunity to share the way I incorporate emotional regulation learning, mental health and mindfulness out in nature with my clients, and others expanded on the emotional regulation area in nature as well!
Something that was wonderful to explore with everyone was the upcoming research that people are working on, and the current research that is out there about using nature in Occupational Therapy. It is one thing to be able to clinically reason and justify different activities in therapy as one individual, but to be able to compare with others and see that there is some scientific validity behind them! It was very validating to know that the way I practice and share lessons with my clients is being studied and done in other places besides my places of work. Being able to connect with everyone was such a beautiful experience and has really refreshed my outlook on practice and given me confidence 🙂
I could write about the details of this experience for a while, but I figured short and sweet just to explain my emotions and experience was good for now. If you have any questions or deeper interest let me know in the comments! Here are a couple of the instagram handles for the therapists I got to get to know over the weekend, in case you want to check out their pages on how they incorporate nature into their Occupational Therapy practice 🙂
Laura Park Figueroa (she also has an awesome podcast called :Therapy in the Great Outdoors! )