Occupational Therapy

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Articles on Occupational Therapy:
   Major in Occupational Therapy
   A future in Occupational Therapy

Major in Occupational Therapy

Article by Rachelle Wiggins

“Whatever work God has allotted to you for this day, year, or decade, do it for His glory with the zeal and diligence that is granted to us through the Holy Spirit.”  ~Christos Makridis

Occupational therapy (OT) is a health and wellness profession that focuses on helping individuals with permanent or temporary illnesses, injuries or disabilities achieve satisfying and independent lives. OT patients range in age from early childhood to senior citizen and could be stroke victims, special needs individuals, injured athletes, or those suffering with chronic conditions and even acute illness. While half of OTs work in hospitals or rehab/therapy offices, others can be found working in residential centers, nursing homes and in private home settings. Occupational therapists assist in a huge span of everyday tasks including everything from eating to dressing to cooking to budgeting to using a computer. They may also offer support with challenges in executive functioning, time management and organizational skills. Often working as teammates with physical therapists, OTs are concerned with all types of impairment and loss of skill: cognitive, physical, motor, sensory and emotional. As the population continues to age, and the role of OTs expand, the projected growth rate for this life-enhancing profession is on the rise. On average, other fields increase by roughly 7% per year, but occupational therapy is projected to grow by 27% over the next decade, showing the true need that exists in this field!

So, beyond a compassionate heart that desires to help people, what are some of the other essential skills and traits for excelling as an occupational therapy major? For starters, it is important to have a strong sense of determination. Not only is the degree program fairly demanding, but the job itself can be challenging and requires some level of ongoing education. Mental and physical stamina is certainly helpful. Also, when working with diverse populations, strong interpersonal and communication skills are a must! In OT it is imperative to listen well so as to properly assess the needs of patients and respond with optimum care. There is a lot of explaining, coaching, motivating and evaluation that goes on and a client’s progress must constantly be reassessed. Because of this, it is important to be flexible to the needs of a given situation and to be a creative problem solver. When one solution doesn’t work, try another! Managing the ever-changing work load and treatment goals of multiple patients requires diligent organizational skills as well.

As of 2007, nearly every state requires a master’s degree before becoming a licensed occupational therapist. Some colleges offer accelerated or dual degree programs to help students meet this goal within five years. Other students earn an associate’s degree in order to gain work experience as an OT assistant (a career that is seeing a 40% increase!) and later build on their education to become a full-fledged occupational therapist. There are many options! For a bachelor’s degree in OT, the classes you might expect to take include:

  • Medical Terminology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Sociology or Anthropology
  • Statistics
  • Physics or Kinesiology
  • And plenty of psychology (general, abnormal, developmental, etc.)

Obviously the most natural fit for a degree as specialized as occupational therapy is in the immediate field of OT. However, OT majors find themselves in other related careers as well. Some examples are:

  • Athletic trainer
  • Art therapist
  • Dance movement psychotherapist
  • Life coach
  • Ergonomist
  • Sports therapist

If you empathize with the hurting and thrive in a caregiving role, then maybe God’s next step for you is a major in occupational therapy!  “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3