Coined as the can-do professionals, Occupational Therapists (OTs) are revolutionising and transforming the lives of many, by offering practical and creative support to aid recovery, and empowering people to overcome personal obstacles which prevent them from engaging in meaningful occupations – that is their day-to-day activities which make them come alive.
Taking place between the 2nd to the 8th November, Occupational Therapy week in the UK, is an opportunity for Occupational Therapists (OTs) nationwide to promote and celebrate their professional influence and impact in the lives of those they work with.
OTs are often engaged in implementing what may appear insignificant small interventions to the uninformed observer but reap abundant beneficial health outcomes. Their superficially small, discrete everyday acts are in reality the outworking of complex clinical reasoning, significantly impacting upon the individuals and communities they work with. OTs are found working in nearly every sphere of life, with all kinds of people; from schools, to prisons to hospitals, wherever there are people, there can be an OT!
If you’ve not had the privilege of meeting an OT before; in summary, OTs are health and social care professionals, who are trained in assessing and attending to all aspects of an individual’s being, their occupations, physical and emotional health and environments; details which may be neglected or missed by other professionals, and helping individuals live their life to their fullest. ‘Occupations’ refer to all of the purposeful activities that we engage with, which gives us a sense of identity and meaning, this can include our hobbies like running, or dancing, parenting or even essential day-to-day tasks like having a shower or brushing our teeth. Rather than being reactive, OTs are proactive and adopt a preventative approach, and as such, are successful in reducing unnecessary hospital admissions, enabling individuals to live independently, motivating the unmotivated and improving the wellbeing and health of many.
This year, the Royal College of Occupational Therapists are asking its members to communicate why they chose to pursue OT as a profession. After being introduced to OT following my own experience of having an eating disorder and admitted to an inpatient ward, I experienced first-hand how OT can change lives because it changed mine. The OT who was involved with my care recognised me as an individual, not a patient, a person and not a number, and helped me to pursue my goals. Inspired by their personalised and strength-based approach and wishing to share the message to those experiencing mental health illnesses, that recovery is possible, I completed a master’s in occupational therapy. Since finishing my studies, I am now working in community mental health services and have the opportunity to work alongside, champion, collaborate and support those experiencing mental illness – what a joy. I witness every day how the small changes – a smile, a listening ear, an adjustment to the environment from an OT perspective – can have a huge impact on an individual’s participation and engagement in their occupations. I see my job a bit like completing a jig-saw – putting the story of an individual’s life together piece by piece. When experiencing mental health illness, getting out of bed or engaging even in the most basic occupations can seem overwhelming, thus the only place to begin with is the smallest step which is in front of us. With their non-judgmental and graded approach, OTs support patients put one foot in front of the other, inching closer and closer to recovery.
In today’s cash-strapped, over-worked NHS and social care systems, OTs provide not only all-important cost-effective savings through a ‘prevention rather than cure’ mind-set, but also realise transforming effects, which focus upon the detail of the matter.
So, how can you find out more about OTs?
- Check out the Royal College of Occupational Therapists website to find out how OTs support people of all ages, with varying needs.
- If you feel you would benefit from an OT, search for an OT following this link.
Author: Esther Dark