Authentic Occupational Therapy emerged from my realization that all OTs learn the history and philosophy that are the basis for classical occupational therapy, but many never get to experience the fullness of that kind of rich practice in real life. I know this because people keep telling me about their frustrations, I consistently hear stories of “Faux T” from clients, families and OT students, and our scholars continue to beg us to do better.
(For a quick and entertaining refresher on the OT foundations I’m referring to:
Today I want to give you five steps to take that will enrich your clinical work so that you can experience the excitement and creativity that drew you to OT, and so that your clients can gain the benefit of real OT.
Because real OT really works.
In my career, I have deliberately sought to work with clients who fit my passions and bring me joy. For me, that has included people of all ages with significant mental health and developmental challenges. Over the years I have provided OT services in ten unique settings. Although the original expectations for OT in each of these places has varied, I have figured out how to enlarge and improve the OT services in every facility, to make my practice fit the basic values of classical OT. The result has significantly added value for my clients and employers, and huge career satisfaction for me.
Here’s my method:
1) Understand what your boss and team expect OT to deliver and do so fully and well. Show them that you can and will meet their basic needs, and can do what they expect of you.
2) Get to know your clients and setting. What do they value and need? What are the available resources? (Spaces that could be used for small groups? A kitchen area? A cabinet full of unused craft supplies or games? A great outdoor area?)
3) Once they are comfortable with you and your work:
(a) Initiate motivating activities to meet #1 in an effective and client-centered way.
(b) Try having some sessions out in the open, where other team members
can see what you’re doing, and give you opportunities to explain it to them.
4) Expect some push-back from those who are made uncomfortable by innovation or change. That is very normal. Don’t be pulled off-center by it, just explain your reasoning in plain terms and stay charming.
5) Be sure to always document and explain your work with direct reference to the clients’ therapeutic goals, in the language that they are written. You must state how making pretzels or creating holiday decorations or whatever provides practice opportunities for fine motor skills, endurance, standing balance, motor planning, cognitive skills, or whatever. You can also highlight the increased duration and effort that your clients show, once they are performing actual tasks that they care about!
If you follow these steps with just one client at a time, I know for sure that your practice will blossom and thrive, as will your clients. Real OT. Because it works.