There are a lot of rumors and confusion regarding the profession of Occupational Therapy (OT). These questions tend to center around what the profession does and who we are as medical professionals. As a practicing Occupational Therapist, for over 15 years, I hear a lot of the same questions repeatedly. Today, we are going to “Myth Bust” these questions and hopefully provide you with clarity regarding what OT is and understanding how this amazing profession can better your lives!
Myth #1: An Occupational Therapist helps me find a job.
- Busted: Although an Occupational Therapist may help you get back to work, it is NOT our job to “find you a job.” Occupation refers to a person’s life role. For example, you may be a mother, father, student, factory worker, or lawyer. If something happens in your life, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional, it is an Occupational Therapist’s job to help you return to your “job” of living. Our goal is simple, help you live your life to its fullest.
Myth #2: An Occupational Therapist is the same as a Physical Therapist.
- Busted: Nope. We are an awesome team and some areas of training do overlap, but we are separate disciplines. A great college professor of my, Mr. Peter Talty, described it brilliantly to me when I was a young student. He said to think of the patient as the middle (center) piece of a wheel. The rubber, tire part of the wheel represents the patient’s whole life. Each spoke within the wheel is an intricate player that helps that patient support a strong rim to be able to spin the wheel. Some examples of individual “spokes” include 1. Doctor, 2. Occupational Therapist, 3. Physical Therapist, 4. Speech Language Pathologist, 5. Pharmacist, 6. Social Worker etc. If one spoke is removed, the rim is no longer supported, the wheel cannot spin, and the patient is not able to live his/her life to the fullest. See, each individual profession/discipline is an intricate, yet crucial, part of a patient’s recovery.
Myth #3: An Occupational Therapist only practices handwriting with my child when in school.
- Busted: Occupational Therapy can help a child’s fine motor skills, such as handwriting; but this is NOT the only thing we focus on. Frequently, a child’s lack of fine motor ability stems from core instability. We have a saying in therapy that goes, “Core Stability Before Distal Mobility.” A pediatric Occupational Therapist will always look at the whole picture of the child and figure out the root of the problem. When the “root” is discovered, an intervention plan will be developed. Sitting down and doing handwriting tasks should be a minimal portion of the therapy session.
Myth #4: An Occupational Therapist cannot help with my parent’s cognitive decline, they only do “physical stuff.”
- Busted: An Occupational Therapist can absolutely help with your parent’s cognitive decline. We are trained in mental health. With this we can offer multiple suggestions and techniques to improve their quality of life.
Myth #5: Occupational Therapists only work in hospitals, schools, or nursing homes.
- Busted: That statement is false, false, false! Occupation Therapy is incredibly versatile. As time goes on, our profession is discovering multiple ways to diversify our special talents and skills. There are multiple specializations that Occupational Therapists can focus in as they grow in their career. Some specialty areas include, but are not limited to, Certified Ergonomics Assessment Specialist, Certified Lymphedema Therapist, Certified Hand Therapist, Low Vision Certification, Board Certification in Pediatrics, NICU Specialist, Feeing Specialist, etc. The list is not only incredible but endless.
Myth #6: Obtaining a degree in Occupational Therapy is easy-peasy.
- Busted: Um, no. Current graduates must have a minimum of a master’s degree to practice as an Occupational Therapist. This includes multiple years of college, months of clinical internships and passing a board certification. Many schools also offer an OTD program which graduates a student at a doctorate level. Occupational Therapists are also required to complete a set number of Continuing Education Credits throughout their professional career to maintain their credentials. Rest assured, your Occupational Therapist is well educated and prepared to treat you effectively.
Myth #7: Occupational Therapy is awesome.
- Confirmed: Occupational Therapy is amazing. Occupational Therapists are working daily and tirelessly to make sure every patient they encounter is living their best lives. Whether it involves teaching them how to make a meal, zip a coat with one hand, put on their prosthesis, or teaching them how to jump, skip or swallow. Whether it is helping them roll over as a baby or take their first bite of real food. Whether it is guiding them with ways to remember their shopping lists, reading a clock, or remembering the names of their family members. Or, doing research to better the profession and the lives of our patients. Occupational Therapy is a highly needed, highly loved and a highly motivated profession with only one common goal in mind: Returning you to what is most important in your life, your OCCUPATION!
I am sure you can tell at this point how much I love OT. My goal is to continue to advocate and educated the public in the incredible profession. Please visit www.AOTA.org with any further questions you may have regarding Occupational Therapy. Stay well and keep living your life to the fullest, and if you cannot, find your local OT to help you achieve it!
Amy Livengood, OTR/L, CEAS II
Hello! I am Amy Livengood and I have been a practicing Occupational Therapist since 2004. I graduated from Keuka College in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State with honors. Following graduation, I began practicing in the pediatric setting. I originally worked with school-aged children but have also ventured into early intervention services, working with children birth - 3 years old. In June 2006, I had the opportunity to join the team at Chautauqua Physical & Occupational Therapy, focusing my profession in a privately-owned outpatient orthopedic clinic in Jamestown, New York. I took the dive and have been doing outpatient hand therapy for almost 14 years now. Since then I have become a certified ergonomics assessment specialist and, most recently, specialized in lymphedema. I am grateful to work for an amazing practice that encourages me to grow and thrive in a profession that I love and am truly passionate about. I have been blessed to be married to my amazing husband, Jonathan for 14 years. He has given me my greatest accomplishments, my children, my daughter Khloe Grace 12 years old and my son, Kale James 10 years old.