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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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What are OS/OT?


Fighting Feelings of Imposter Syndrome During Fieldwork >

by Calvin

Fieldwork What are OS/OT?

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Just last week, I completed my first Level II Fieldwork at Prototypes: A Program of HealthRIGHT 360! I was placed with the agency’s Adult Full Service Partnership (FSP) Program and Children’s Program where I was able to provide individualized occupational therapy services to clients across the lifespan who struggle with mental health concerns, needs, and barriers.

This was my first full-time fieldwork placement. I was expected to be there every day from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm, whereas my previous Level I Fieldwork placements did not require me to come as often. Although I had heard amazing things about Prototypes from previous fieldwork students, I knew that things would be different given the pandemic situation, and also just that everyone’s experience is different. I was feeling anxious about taking on telehealth services, potentially meeting clients in-person, documentation, and more. I wasn’t sure how I would fit in with the team or if I was going to represent OT well enough in the mental health field. The imposter syndrome was real. However, after my first few weeks of fieldwork, those feelings of impostorism gradually began to fade away. I was able to build my confidence to thrive in what turned out to be a beyond-stellar fieldwork experience.

My clinical instructor (CI) was the only occupational therapist at my site, but they truly advocated and raised OT awareness within our client and provider population. I am so fortunate to have had their supervision because they helped further my understanding of what occupational therapy’s role in mental health is. I also appreciated how they always challenged me to ask questions and tested my clinical reasoning and critical thinking skills. At first, I was nervous about making mistakes, but I kept reminding myself that it’s okay and that I should take those as opportunities to learn and grow. Additionally, with the rest of the agency team (inclusive of case managers, clinicians, administrative support and program directors), I felt very well supported and empowered to make an impact as an occupational therapy fieldwork student. It wasn’t long after the beginning when I started to more confidently plan clients’ treatments, document my sessions, present cases to my fellow colleagues, and really highlight the unique capacity of occupational therapy within the mental health community.

It was this sense of community and appreciation for OT that made me feel like I belonged, and uplifted me to bring my skills and knowledge of resources to the table. I was able to creatively collaborate with my caseload of clients to address hygiene management, budgeting their finances, accessing resources, accountability with task completion, social participation, engaging in habit change, and building and maintaining routines so that they can independently participate in their daily lives. I realized that this is the beautiful work of occupational therapy in mental health (and of course there’s so much more to it)! These are meaningful occupations that may be difficult for individuals to participate in because of their mental health needs and barriers. As occupational therapists, we have the power to use occupations as a means and as an ends, as well as to support our clients with health promotion and education, holistic interventions, and our therapeutic use of self.

Team Picture

The OT Team with our farewell paintings 😢 Best team ever!!!

Overcoming self-doubt and persevering through my own imposter syndrome enabled me to come out of this fieldwork with a wealth of insight, about OT and about myself. I’m grateful for My Mental Health Immersion Experience for providing me with such a solid foundation that prepared me well for this experience. Also, the interprofessional collaboration that I experienced here was extraordinary, and I am incredibly thankful for all the mental health practitioners that I was able to collaborate with. Finally, thank you to my CI, my new West Coast University OT student friends, and especially my ambassador teammate, Bethany Yew, who was placed there along with me — WE DID IT, BETHANY!!!

I am very much looking forward to transitioning into my next, and final, Level II Fieldwork for the Summer 2021 semester, and I can’t wait to continue translating everything I’ve learned through my experiences! Whether if it’s our first or last, or if it’s Level I or Level II, good luck to all of us going into fieldwork. Let’s continue to support one another and make the most out of our experiences!


The A-Z’s of USC OT: Part II >

by Bethany

Admissions Classes Living in LA What are OS/OT?

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In a previous post, I began The A-Z’s of USC OT: Part I. So continuing right where we left off…

Occupation — Occupation is, of course, the focus of our profession and one of the focuses of our schooling. We do not compare ourselves to other professions, but rather learn how to advocate for the inherent value of our distinct perspective as OTs.

Program interconnectivity — As a BS-MA student, we get to meet a lot of OS minors through classes and the Pre-OT club. We join up with Entry-Level students for the graduate level curriculum. We get to learn alongside Post-Professional Master’s students and OTD students in our electives, and have PhD students as our TAs. From my experience, students get to interact with OTs in all programs.

Questions and answers — Questions about fieldwork? Scheduling? Applying to the OTD after finishing the Master’s? Clinical experience? Our faculty and staff (and student ambassadors!) are responsive to all of our queries. We are also paired with faculty mentors, who are matched based on our interests.

Rehab lab — In the Center for Health Professions, we have a lab for Adult Physical Rehabilitation that includes a hospital setting, a bedroom, bathroom, and fully-functional. We can practice creating and implementing interventions in a real space. You can check out the room on our virtual tour!

Shuttle — There is free transportation between campuses! The shuttle is accessible to everyone, not just students. And shuttle time is great for conversations, naps, or watching shows on your phone. One of the previous ambassadors, Noelle, recorded her shuttle trip.

Trojan Family — Whether it be cheering our team on to victory, ending up at a fieldwork site with USC alumni, or of course networking through the Trojan Network site, the Trojan Family is inclusive, extensive, and supportive.

Undergraduate Study — USC is one of the few schools to offer an undergraduate degree in Occupational Therapy, which helped me claim my identity as an occupational therapy student and learn to advocate better for the field. We also offer a minor in Occupational Science.

Vibrant student life — Around campus, you will find a bustle of students, whether they be grabbing food at the farmers market or Trader Joe’s or going to football games amidst a sea of cardinal and gold.

Well-established — USC’s OT program lives up to its name. We were the first Master’s degree in OT and the first PhD in OS. We developed Lifestyle Redesign, and we continue to be a top-ranked OT school.

X-amine yourself — Within our classes, we are given opportunities for introspection about how our own beliefs, communication styles, and backgrounds can affect how we come into a client-therapist relationship. For example, we complete a values checklist and share our results with our classmates, leading to (1) introspection, (2) learning to understand and listen to other perspectives, and (3) understanding the position of vulnerability we ask of our clients.

You’re not alone — Whenever I needed help, I had support from faculty. They worked with me to make sure I could participate in band for my senior year while taking classes. They looked at which fieldwork placements best suited my preferences and transportation needs. I’m happy to have resources to go to for anything I need in the program.

Zeal — One thing I have always admired about USC students is their passion. And now, I get to pursue my passion in occupational therapy alongside others who share that zeal to find ways to creatively help others do what they love.

Whew! 26 letters. Felt like a long list, but even so. It cannot sum up the passion for OT and the community that I found these past years. Regardless, I hope that I was able to give you a good glimpse into the program. 😊


Restorative Occupation on R(OT)ation >

by Calvin


Classes What are OS/OT?

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Last week was the Week of Restorative Occupations! This eventful week encouraged all students, faculty and staff to engage in restorative occupations. There were daily division-hosted events not limited to baking sessions, cardboard loom-weaving, salsa dance breaks, and joke writing! There’s also a compiled list of General Resources that includes restorative occupations outside of USC that we can all continue participating in. Shoutout to our amazing Webmaster, Paul Bailey, because I’m sure he put in a lot of time and effort to put all of that together 😊! You rock, Paul!

Although the event itself is over, that doesn’t mean we should stop engaging in restorative occupations! This past week was a time to highlight and celebrate the importance of participating in those occupations, and I’m definitely going to keep mine going. One of my favorite occupations is listening to music, so I decided to create a Spotify playlist that really reflects what “restorative” means to me: good energy, happiness, and relaxation. I love to share what I listen to, so I’ll include a preview to my playlist below!

I was actually introduced to a few of these songs in my OT 578: Therapeutic Communication: Facilitating Change in Clients course because Dr. Jesús Díaz would invite students to play music during breaks. He even asked some faculty to send over their playlists — thanks for the new music Dr. Arameh Anvarizadeh and Dr. Sook-Lei Liew, we love good taste!

Feel free to comment down below if you discovered a new song you like or if you want to share some of your favorite songs!


My Fieldwork in a “non-traditional” setting >

by Lamoni

Fieldwork What are OS/OT?

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My previous blog post was about being comfortable with uncertainty as I waited to learn where I would be placed for fieldwork this semester. Update: I have been placed and I have completed my first week! I am in what we would call a “non-traditional” setting. The work that I will be doing is not happening in a clinic or hospital and the clients do not have diagnoses. In fact, I will be completing my work remotely because it is research. I am at SOLA Peace Center working under Dr. Kristy Payne and regularly meeting with Dr. Gelya Frank. SOLA is a non-profit organization that has recently formed a collaboration with USC. SOLA’s primary goal is to create more peaceful and just communities. It is based out of South Los Angeles and primarily serves the economically disadvantaged. The organization recognizes that poverty is a form of structural violence and due to a lack of resources, children in these communities are often experiencing occupational alienation. As occupational therapists, we know the many benefits that occupation and occupational opportunities bring to our lives. Thus, we can imagine how detrimental the lack of occupational opportunities can be. Without proper tools, skills, and resources, children are limited in their possibilities. My role as a level II fieldwork student here is to strengthen the effectiveness and reach of SOLA in the community by attending community meetings, completing observations, and researching best practices. To be productive in the community, SOLA must be backed by evidence. 

Though I am not writing treatment plans and submitting documentation, the work at SOLA is that of an occupational therapist. I ask the questions, “what is preventing children in this community from engaging in meaningful occupation?” and “How can I change that and help them be successful?” The overarching theme of occupational therapy remains – how can I help this person do what they need to do and want to do (despite disability, illness, and/or circumstance)? The work at SOLA is a combination of pediatrics, wellness, and mental health. Children learn ways to regulate themselves, life skills such as peaceful communication and conflict resolution, and goal-setting for self-improvement. Further, children learn how to be leaders in their community, how to take social action, and how to make their voices heard. There is no selection process—anyone that wants to join is able to do so. What I love most about SOLA is their focus on and integration of occupational justice. SOLA aims to give children exposure to new possibilities and the tools that they need for success in school, in the workforce, and in society.  The mission is to help those in the community feel like they have agency, particularly the children that are often overlooked.

I am so excited to acquire and develop new skills while working with SOLA Peace Center! The insight that I gain will not only help me become a more thoughtful, well-rounded occupational therapy practitioner, I will be assisting in leveling an unfair playing field while doing so. Everything that we do with intention is occupation. That means that occupational therapy fits into much more than the distinct areas of adult rehabilitation, pediatrics, and mental health. We are a profession with so much value and so much to share. Let us continue to expand and bring our expertise where it is needed.


Humans of USC Chan Volume 2 >

by Calvin

Diversity Getting Involved Videos What are OS/OT?

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Did you know that you can major in occupational therapy as an undergraduate student at USC? The Chan Division currently offers an accelerated program, known as the Bachelor’s to Master’s Program, where undergraduate students can earn their master’s degree in occupational therapy with just one additional year. I believe that the BS-MA students have very unique experiences to share, especially as individuals who committed to the profession so early on.

So, I invited some Bachelor’s to Master’s students to come and talk about how they discovered occupational therapy! On top of that, we discussed topics related to their favorite experiences, extracurricular involvement, differences being in an accelerated program at USC, and advice for students who might be interested in the program! If you watch it through YouTube, the video is time-stamped with each topic in case you ever want to go back to a specific conversation.

I hope you find this video helpful and that these diverse perspectives give you more insight into what student life is like in the Bachelor’s to Master’s program! Welcome to the Humans of USC Chan!

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