Hey readers! Welcome to the newest series on my blog: OT Features! Today I bring to you Amanda G.’s story. She has such a cool background with a masters degree in mental health counseling specializing in expressive therapies, which gives her a really unique view of OT. I am so excited for you all to read her post and learn more about her background, why she decided to change careers, and what she loves about OT. Enjoy!
Hello! My name is Amanda and I’m just wrapping up the first year of my OTD program in Boston. I have a masters in mental health counseling specializing in expressive therapies, meaning that in my previous work I used a lot of art, music, creative writing, and movement therapy to work with clients. As part of my master’s degree I interned for a year in a partial hospitalization program for children and adolescents where I would lead 3-6 mental health focused groups per day, incorporating the arts as I could. I also interned at a rehabilitation hospital for older adults where I would lead music, movement, and art groups on various floors. That same company hired me to work full time as an expressive therapist and life enhancement coordinator in one of their memory care units where I would lead 6 groups per day, some of them mental health focused, and others more fun or game focused. I also met with residents one on one to do art and music in a mental health focused way. This is where I got my first exposure to the OT’s who worked in the facility and had an opportunity to shadow them. I’m really interested in continuing my work with older adults and mental health, but I’m also open to all of the other possibilities that OT has to offer! I’m hoping on my level II fieldwork I’ll have the opportunity to experience some new settings.
Why did you decide to become an OT?
There is one story that really drove my decision to become an OT and essentially change careers. While I was working in the memory care unit, I did one on one sessions with an older gentlemen who was new to the unit and in his early 90’s. I had seen that when he arrived he had unpacked an old banjo and acoustic guitar. As an expressive therapist, I was really excited that he came in with some musical background. I went to meet with him and asked to see his guitar which he happily handed over to me. It was terribly out of tune, so I tuned it for him and handed it back. He began playing an old Irish folksong and singing. As he finished playing he started to cry and told me that he hadn’t been able to play in over 20 years because he didn’t have anyone who would help him tune his guitar. I was absolutely appalled by this. I thought that there must be someone out there whose job it was to help people continue to do things that they love to do. This is when I asked around and heard about the occupational therapists (who coincidentally did not actually work in my unit) and requested to shadow them for a day. I was amazed by the work that they did and the focus being on helping people perform the tasks that they love and need to perform. I just fell in love with that idea and with the vastness of the field.
What is your favorite part of OT?
I love the idea that by doing, we can succeed and overcome. To me, this is the core principal of OT. When I worked with clients with depression and other mood disorders, they would commonly express anhedonia, or the loss of enjoyment in doing the things they once loved. With encouragement to pick these things back up, a lot of their symptoms tended to improve. To me, OT is all about that idea. It’s all about using the things that mean a lot to you and that make you happy as tools to overcome obstacles and hardships. I also love that the ideas in expressive therapies fit in so well with this. We would use art and music to help lift people up. We naturally use occupations to heal ourselves.
What is occupational balance to you, and how do you maintain it?
Occupational balance is the idea that we need to maintain occupations that fulfill our responsibilities, while also having the ability to do those occupations that bring us joy and make us feel fulfilled. This is a core idea in the world of art and music therapy as well. It’s the idea that you’re doing art for the sake of doing it because it makes you happy. You aren’t doing art to be the best in the world. And if, in fact, you are a world famous artist, you take the time to do art for yourself as well. It’s a balance between the things that you are obligated to do, and the things that you love to do. It’s particularly hard to maintain this while in school full-time and working part time. I think I’m lucky that I have my art and my music to fall back to when I need time for myself. It’s something that’s just for me, that I don’t particularly need to show anybody, but that makes me feel happy for the sake of feeling happy. I also love being outdoors and around animals, so my part time job at a pet store also has aspects of things I like to do combined with things that I have to do.
Fun Facts About Amanda
Like I said, I love animals and animal-related occupations! I’ve ridden and worked with horses since I was 5, including a stint volunteering for Angels on Horseback, a therapeutic horseback riding school. I’ve worked at various pet stores off and on since I was 18 and have a lot of useless animal knowledge and a mini menagerie of my own including a rescue dog, rescue cat, two rescue snakes, and a beta fish. In the field of OT I’m hoping to incorporate all of my expressive therapies training since I feel it’s all so incredibly relevant to the OT field! I’d also love to bring OT back to more of a mental health focus, and include a lot of mental health practices in my future work!
Favorite OT social media accounts?
Your’s of course! 😉 To be honest there isn’t really one that I follow. I tend to gravitate towards particular articles, ideas, or posts rather than any individual person or account. I think it’s important to have a wide variety of things to focus on when it comes to learning more about the field. I will say that I do really enjoy reading your blog!
Thanks for reading!