Occupational Therapy Month celebrated

Published 9:49 pm Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Tonya S. Swindell

The American Occupational Therapy Association has designated April as Occupational Therapy Month. At this time, occupational therapy practitioners implement activities to increase public awareness of occupational therapy services.

One of the goals of occupational therapy is to “help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities,” according to the association.

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Occupational therapists hold bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees in occupational therapy. Certified occupational therapy assistants earn an associate degree. All occupational therapy practitioners are required to complete supervised clinical fieldwork in a variety of health and educational settings and to pass a national certification examination.

Additionally, most states have laws regulating the provision of occupational therapy services. For example, Virginia requires applicants to submit a completed application and fee, verification of professional education in occupational therapy, verification of practice as specified on the application form and documentation of passage of the national certification examination.

If licensed or certified in another jurisdiction, an applicant must verify that there has been no disciplinary action taken or pending in that jurisdiction.

Occupational therapists assess and treat clients of various ages in diverse settings, such as acute care hospitals, rehabilitation centers, school systems, adult daycare programs, nursing homes, home health, wellness programs and mental health settings.

I’d like to examine the role of occupational therapists and certified occupational therapists in mental health settings, where their goal is to improve quality of life and reduce the need for hospitalization.

In the mental health setting, these professionals facilitate purposeful and goal-oriented activities to enhance daily living skills in the following areas: assertiveness training, problem-solving or cognitive-skills training, home management, time management, medication management, safety, interpersonal and social skills training, stress management, basic activities of daily living (i.e. hygiene), interdependency and wellness.

Occupational therapy services may include adaptation of the home, work or school environment to promote optimal functioning in daily living roles; facilitation of educational programs for individuals and groups; consulting with employers regarding Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, guidance and consultation to persons in employment settings.

Tonya S. Swindell of Suffolk earned a Bachelor of Science degree in occupational therapy from Medical University of South Carolina in 1997 and a master’s degree in community health education and health promotion from Old Dominion University in 2007. She practices occupational therapy in the mental health department of Hampton VA Medical Center.