Occupational Therapy - an amazing profession.

You know when you get to that point when something really ticks you off and you just have to say something.  Get it off your chest and take the risk of the fall out.  Today I reached that point.  So here it comes, 14 years worth of keeping my mouth shut.  Hold on tight.

I am an Occupational Therapist and have been for the past 14 years.  I absolutely love doing what I do and I think that as an Occupational Therapist I have so much to offer.  As a profession of Occupational Therapists, we have so much to offer.  

So why do I keep seeing OT’s who are playing it small?  OT’s who don’t think they are worth anything or don’t think they have as much to offer as a physio or a chiro or a dr.  Why do I keep seeing OT’s who wont stand up and be counted? 

Dr Lissa Rankin has gained worldwide publicity and is pioneering a movement in the medical profession based on her Whole Health Cairn.  Basically it is a model of health that says everything needs to be in balance for the whole person to be healthy.  Everything matters, relationships, work, environment, family, sexuality, physical, mental and emotional health.  I am in total agreement with her, but what makes me angry is that this is what I learnt in OT101.  And every OT on this planet learns this!  It is one of the fundamental bases and philosophies of our profession.  It took Dr Rankin a complete breakdown and many years of research and clinical practice to figure this out.  She is now a genius in her field!  

Meaningful Occupation is also at the core of our understanding of health.  Our ability to assist people to gain or regain meaningful occupation is how our profession really started, and how we got called basket weavers.  In the post war time where many of our soldiers were injured, physically, mentally and emotionally, the provision of a meaningful task to occupy them was the best form of rehabilitation provided.  Now, I can tell you, that providing someone with the ability to cook a meal, dress themselves, walk down the street, return to work, knit a scarf, read a book, plant a garden, something that provides meaningful occupation, that gives them the ability to complete all activities of daily living, is the best gift you can give someone.  It fulfills so many of aspects of what constitutes whole health.  So why are we embarrassed that cooking groups are part of our therapy.  Why do we let others think we are just cooking a cake for fun with our patients, rather than letting them know the true value and meaning of the therapy?  Are we going to continue to let other professions have a great idea of doing something “functional” for therapy and treatment.  

As a profession we hide behind the curtain of “not knowing what an OT does” or “just treating the upper limb”.  We have an understanding of whole health and wellbeing like no other profession, and, it is time for us to stand up and own it.  Get back to the grass roots of our profession and utilise that fundamental philosophy that allows people to be truly healthy and functional. 

So, if you are an OT, ask yourself.  Am I playing small?  Do I feel I have something of absolute value to offer?  

Stop telling yourself you are not worth anything.  Stop telling yourself “your only an OT”.  Stop letting others restrict your thinking and put you in a box.  Don’t wait for your employer to offer you a course.  Don’t wait for someone else to offer you a job.  Go find the courses you want to do and do them.  Create the job you want and work hard to fulfill it.  And if you see another OT doing something great, support them, don’t compete with them and knock them down.

After employing OT’s, mentoring OT’s, lecturing OT’s, being president of our state association, being mentored by other OT’s, and working as an OT, I feel I am totally qualified to make these statements.  I have spent literally thousands of dollars and travelled the world to sit at the feet of masters in many disciplines of medicine in order to make myself a better OT.  I have been praised and I have been ridiculed.  The more I know the more I realise I don’t know.  I have made money and I have lost money.  The one thing I have absolute certainty in though, is my ability to use my training as an OT to really enrich the lives of those who come to me for help.  To help them function in meaningful occupations and to find ways to get the internal and external balance in all aspects of their lives.  

And there is one thing I have absolute hope for.  And that is, that every OT reading this will stand up and be counted in whatever way they can.  They will see value in our profession and together start to drive our profession to be seen and heard.   

I will do whatever it takes. 


Jac Edser