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The Ever-changing Occupational Therapy role

By Natalia Krasowski, Occupational Therapist - Inside Out


What is Occupational Therapy?


One of the most common questions we as OT’s often receive is this one.

We all have our own definition, however, the way I like to describe it is OT’s help individuals gain or maintain independence in any activity/occupation that occupies their time and that is meaningful to them.


I’ll give you some examples just for context…

  • For children, that might be learning how to go to the toilet independently or learning social skills to be able to play with peers.

  • For teens this might be learning how to catch public transport independently so that they can get to school.

  • For adults this could be returning to work after an injury or learning how to live independently.

  • For older adults this could look like being able to maintain independence for having a shower and by doing so may need some pieces of equipment to support them.

As you can see, Occupational Therapy is very broad, and often why this profession can be confusing to some. However, the key takeaway is that we support individuals gain independence in any activity that is meaningful to them.


OT Scope of Practice


Now that you have a better understanding of what OT is and what Occupational Therapists do, you can probably see how our role can really fit into any setting.

OT’s can work in a variety of settings and here are some just to name a few:

  • Hospital settings where they support individuals post illness to gain functional independence ie ability to use their left arm to independently dress themselves post stroke.

  • School settings to support children reach their developmental milestones in school tasks such as handwriting.

  • Outpatient psychiatric unit where they support teens or adults to recover from addictions or mental health disorders that impact their function and ability to engage in meaningful activities.

  • Community settings where you meet the individual in their own home and support them to any environmental goal they may have for independence such as home modifications for wheelchair functionality.

  • Aged care settings where you can re-engage older adults in activities that spark meaning so that they can live out the rest of their days doing something that brings them joy such as going for a walk or connecting with others.

And the list doesn’t end their… Given that the OT role is so broad and diverse, it allows therapists to explore unconventional avenues. This is why I believe our role is ever-changing and adaptable.


OT LENSE


To give a bit of background, during university we were taught various models or lenses to have when onboarding a new client. One of the most common models that is used as a framework is the PEO model.


The PEO model stands for Person, Environment, and Occupation. This model emphasises how all three aspects have a large impact on a person’s life, goals and all have a role to play in an individual’s growth and development. There are plenty other models that OT’s use within their practice that have a broader range of classifications or categories. However, naturally Occupational Therapists take on a holistic approach to therapy due to understanding that individuals are multifaceted. Without the holistic approach, it is mere impossible to support a client to achieve their goals.


How the OT Role has Evolved, Inclusive of Individuality


With the somewhat recent rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), it has added another setting/s in which OT’s can find work and further enhance their skills. This government scheme provides people living with disabilities access to various healthcare services, meaning that we are able to reach and provide therapeutic supports beyond the traditional settings.


We are continually learning and developing our skills and often take on new ways of approaching therapy, inclusive of therapeutic strategies from other professions, as we are now collaborating even more closely with fellow health professionals. As a result, this has further expanded on our ‘holistic approach’ and the reason why the OT profession often overlaps with others. As a result of this expansion, the OT role continues to evolve.


It is also important to note, that each OT also has their own way of providing therapy. This is often due to clinicians expanding on their own personal goals and learning new ways to promote health and well-being not only for themselves but also for their clients.


In my own personal experience of recently diving into the world of personal development, have learnt that there are even more layers to an individual outside of what was taught at university. Through engagement in various educational courses, I have been able to expand on my own skills as a human being and am often motivated to share my new learnings from these experiences to my clients.


Particularly through the COVID-Pandemic, this worldwide situation has emphasised the importance of engagement in meaningful activities and how that has an impact on an individual’s overall health and well-being. Thus, highlighting the OT profession and how we play a crucial role within the healthcare industry.


I am truly excited to see how the OT profession will continue to evolve in the coming years and decades.


You can learn more about Natalia and OT by following Natalia on instagram @insideoutot or by visiting her website: http://www.insideoutot.com.au




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