No, I Don’t Find People Jobs: My OT Elevator Speech
January 29, 2018
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me what occupational therapy is, I would have… well, a lot of dollars. If you’re pursuing OT or even an OT yourself, then you’ve probably come across the following misconceptions and/or questions about the profession, such as, “Occupational therapy is like physical therapy, right?,” or, “Do you help people find jobs?”
For some, it may be exhausting to describe what OT is over and over again. For me, I’ve learned to think of it as a great opportunity to advocate for the profession and tell people about the amazing value of OT! I’ve been in countless situations — other than my job — whether it’s at the dinner table, at social events/parties, or just out and about in the real world where I’ve busted out my OT “elevator speech.” Rome wasn’t built in a day, so we can’t expect everyone to know exactly what OT is overnight either. 😊
Here is the general breakdown and framework of my ever-evolving OT spiel that can hopefully help guide you in some way shape or form:
The “occupation” part of “occupational therapy,” is defined as any meaningful activity that comprises a person’s everyday life. For some people, their meaningful activity in life can mean their career, but for others, it can be socializing with their friends, brushing their teeth, brushing their hair, cooking, engaging in arts and crafts at school, and so on.
Here, I define ‘occupation’ first. I feel like once people understand our meaning of ‘occupation,’ it is a much easier concept to grasp.
Therefore, OT is a health profession that empowers and enables individuals of all ages to engage in these occupations to the best of their abilities despite any injury, disease, or disability.
Here, I define occupational therapy.
How we do this depends on where we work. For example, those working at a school may work with children on their fine motor skills (e.g., using scissors to cut) so that they can participate in arts in crafts in the classroom. Those working in a hospital may work with those who have suffered a stroke to work on activities of daily living (e.g., brushing teeth). *This list could go on and on…
At this point, I’ll list examples of different places OT can work and what they do in those settings. Part of the reason why OT is so hard to grasp is because we can be found anywhere and everywhere!
To try and solidify everything I’ve said, I’ll either talk about my personal experiences or somehow make the connection to something that will make sense to the person or people I am talking to. If I’m talking about a personal experience, I’ll tend to talk about OT’s role in animal-assisted therapy and my involvement with Assistance Dogs of Hawaii as a clinical rotation. Another connection I frequently make is related to the Marvel movie, “Doctor Strange,” which works well with the kids/male population/anyone who likes Marvel movies but knows nothing about health care. In summary, Dr. Strange, a neurosurgeon, gets into a car accident in which he injures both of his hands. In the movie, he sees a hand therapist (most likely an OT), who helps rehabilitate his hand so that he can get back to his meaningful occupation of performing surgery (and being a superhero later on, obviously).
Defining OT is all about practice, catering to your audience, and having a positive attitude about it! There is no right or wrong way to talk about a career you love.