Invisible or visible – 10 days, 10 years forever

Frozen silverbeetA while back I was watching a one of those 10 years younger in 10 days programmes and got hooked because the person being ‘done’ was an occupational therapy student. I was interested to see how they would portray occupational therapy. Sometimes you hear us spoken about as the invisible profession. If we do our job well the person we are working with sees themselves as having achieved their goal and feels they got there through their own efforts. So how do we make what we do visible.

As per the usual pattern of TV programmes they gave a 10-15 sound bite to something about occupational therapy. They chose to show occupational therapy students seeing what it is like to make a sandwich one handed.

I have for a while believed that we can’t wait for perfect examples we need to get into the public consciousness. I also believe that we sometimes get stuck on thinking we need to portray the whole range and depth of occupational therapy practice in everything that goes out as publicity. So what would I do in 10-15 seconds…….in no particular order……..

first the easy sound/visual bites – these are the ones associated with adaptation

adjusting a wheelchair for an individual

making a splint

working with a client to bring about an environmental modification

teaching someone energy saving techniques

the more difficult sound/visual bites are associated with how to portray the role we have in bringing about a clients engagement or participation

A group of children playing interactively together – but how do you show that the interactivity has been facilitated because of how the occupational therapist set the environment and the selection of the occupation/task/game?

Doing a work site visit….

…….um any other thoughts


9 responses to “Invisible or visible – 10 days, 10 years forever

  1. heh. great posting. I think you have nicely hit upon the other problem with OT’s own marketing issues, namely – its really broad!

    Your right about the dilemma – a few times now I have sat down in front of a hairdresser and they ask “So what do you do?”, I hesitate and think “Do I give them the long really enthusiastic answer and spend a lot longer than I wish to be sitting here going over it and they will probably still think I either a) teach people how to lift a box or b) a physio, or just say ‘I work alongside a physio'”. I have done both and to be to be honest I always feel guilty plumping for the latter – and quite rightly in a way. A way of verbalising something in a nice soundbite is easy but as your exercise intrinsically proves its almost impossible to cover the entire breadth of OT – but we have to start somewhere!

    The only things I would add would be something from the mental health angle – perhaps
    – Talk through with someone about their preferred strategies to cope with anxiety


  2. occupationaltherapyotago

    Haven’t we all been there! It’s always a dilemma when someone asks so what do you do – Do I give them the long version or the short version?. When in practice I got down to the …occupational therapists do lots of things but what I do is … I tried the it is like physio but different – then I started to think its not like physio at all!! (then people would get the very long version as I justified the difference!). Now I’m an educator and its harder to use the “this is what I do..” so I have come to occupational therapy is largely about two things adaptation and bringing about engagement and giving brief examples. Then there is the good old “assisting people to do the things they want and need to do”. However I was heartened last year when during occupational therapy awareness week we did a ‘wall of occupation’ at our local farmers market on Saturday morning. It involved stopping anyone who could be stopped and asking them to contribute an occupation that they would be doing that weekend (writing it on a poststick and sticking it on the wall) we got an amazing range of occupations from cleaning troughs to having babies.. but the heartening bit was that almost everyone I talked to (and there were hundreds or it seemed that way) knew something about occupational therapy so we are getting there and so maybe now we can relax a little and just build on what people know. Jackie

  3. Oohh I love that idea of an occupation wall. Seems like a good exercise for OT month, which is April at least in the US, don’t know how those holidays translate across countries. 🙂

  4. It is OT month right now in Canada…October. The fear many of us have in trying to define occupational therapy, or at least for myself, is I hate to limit the imagination! If I attempted to sit down and list things we do as OTs to someone inquiring…they may walk away thinking that the list was complete.
    We retain, build, maintain, maximize, adapt, nurture, enable, rediscover the skills of living!!

    As a side note, another OT and I visited the Dunedin area last February and I quite simply fell in love with the Otago peninsula…what a beutiful area!

  5. hello everyone!i am a fourth year student of occupational therapy in India…and it was good to read that the problems we face in India are the same everywhere..i would like a little help from u guys..u see we have this annual occupational therapy conference in various parts of India…this year its in nagpur and my batch is participating…our theme for model or project is industrial ot, marketing ot and ot in sports injuries…we have gathered some material but would likke to knw how these various aspects are tackeled abroad for a wider perspective…please send in your ideas or any useful links u know.

  6. occupationaltherapyotago

    Hi Sanaya
    It is lovely to hear from an occupational therapy student in India. I agree many of the challenges for occupational therapists are world wide, it’s great that blogs now give us an opportunity to link up and talk about them.

    I don’t have a lot of up-to-date experience about industrial occupational therapy or occupational therapists and sports injury I will leave that for someone else to comment on. I am however in a situation where we are constantly trying to market occupational therapy. It seems to us that we need to keep trying to think about marketing the profession in all that we do, to all sorts of different people: the general public, clients/patients, our clients families and friends, perspective students, employers of occupational therapists potential employers, funders of services, government personal, government ministers etc. I believe that almost all publicity is good publicity and have come to accept that we can’t get the breath of occupational therapy across to people all at once, but that bit by bit they will gain a greater understanding.

    Currently in our marketing for perspective students we have a small booklet in which we have 6 therapists who have been working for 1-5 years talking about where they work, the types of things they do and what they love about being an occupational therapist – we asked them to only write 3 paragraphs (about 400 words). We selected therapists working in a range of different places. We often get positive comments from people about the booklet. We also have a DVD our students did about being a student which is a great blend of information giving and fun.

    I think we could be using web 2 tools more after all it’s free. I often find that people have googled “whats occupational therapy” or “becoming an occupational therapy student” or similar statements and they get to my blog and I am sure other blogs – but I have been thinking that whilst by blogging we are giving people an idea of the occupational therapy profession I have wondered whether I shouldn’t have on my blog some specific things about becoming a occupational therapy student or about being an occupational therapist -so watch this space.
    I wish you well with your project and would love to hear what you end up doing.

    I would also be interested to hear whether you and others think we should be using OT or saying and writing it in full – does the use of ” OT” hinder or assist us in increasing our profile?

  7. hi.,
    thanks a lot for for the information..cud u please tell me where or which links/sites would give me more information about all this stuff….i am a bit new to this blogging stuff so searching my way around!!..are there any govt. policies in your country regarding the employment of an ot’ist in hospital setup?..are you aware of ot;ist working in industries?if yes cud u pl help me contact them…
    in mumbai as of now there is no such person working in industries..we wanted to knw if it is any different abroad..
    i think the term occupational therapy does not give clear information to people who come across it for the first time..most of them here feel it is something to do wh occupational diseases!!!
    should i keep posting here or will it be better if u give me your email id?as per your convience

  8. hii!! I’m from India too in Mumbai itself in as far as marketing is concerned I guess the best way to market OT is to market it to the right people. The general population usually for each problem land up at general practitioners. So first the medical faculty needs to know what OT is and what is different between OT and PT. And that it is the wholistic approach and that we concentrate on the performance areas (ADL,Work,Leisure) by treating the Performance components(physical,cognitive,psychological) and help achieve functional independence (thats the ultimate thing ) along with Occupational independence. And that Occupational therapy has 1 hand into industrial ergonomics which is not the case with Physiotherapy. So do some research on that, coz that is a very,very important aspect of OT
    thanx for making this site, thanx

  9. Frankly speakin US,n UK r at a far better position as far as Occupational Therapy is concerned n i guess we shud take their help. So ne1 frm US, plz tell me on industrial ergonomics n in various industrial setups. plz tell me the site for this plz..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s