Hey readers, happy 6th day of blogmas! I have lots of pre-OT followers on Instagram and on my blog, so I thought it would be helpful to chat about how to know if OT is the right career path for you. I know some OT students go back and forth between OT and PT before applying to OT school, and some people debate between OT and other healthcare and non-healthcare professions. Here are a few key characteristics of occupational therapy and occupational therapists that you should have or know about before applying to OT school:
Enjoy Working With People
As with pretty much any healthcare profession, OTs work with people on a daily basis. If you aren’t a “people person” and don’t enjoy working with people, then OT may not be the right fit for you.
In addition to working with people, it is important to be able to appreciate the differences in every person you work with. There will never be a “one size fits all” OT intervention. Every OT intervention is adapted for the specific person you are working with, taking into account their cultural values, personal factors, life experiences, and more!
Be a Problem-Solver
OTs are essentially problem-solvers. Clients come to us with challenges in performing the tasks and activities that they need or want to do, and we problem-solve with them to find solutions to these problems. We take into account their habits, routines, roles, and rituals to remediate/rehabilitate the person or adapt the environment to facilitate success in the things that are important to them.
OTs have to be able to connect with their clients to build rapport and trust with them. As an OT, you should express empathy by trying to understand the client’s situation, listening to them without judgment, and validating their thoughts and feelings.
I am someone who likes schedules and routines, so this is the hardest part of being a future-OT for me! OTs have to be flexible in many ways. For example, you may have a wonderful session plan in mind, but when the client arrives they are not in the mental or physical space to do what you had planned. In this instance, you have to use your clinical reasoning skills to decide what the best course of action for your session will be in order to work on their goals while respecting and addressing the client’s feelings and readiness for therapy.
Another example is something I experienced during one of my level I fieldwork placements in an inpatient setting. The OT had an idea of which clients she would see throughout the day, but when she got to their rooms she found that they were out at appointments, had visitors, had already gotten dressed, were in the bathroom… and the list goes on. The moral of the story is, be flexible! Your plans will change, and that is okay.
Meaningful Occupational Engagement
This is at the heart of occupational therapy. We work with clients to be able to participate in the things that are meaningful to them. After all, participating in meaningful occupations promotes positive mental health and quality of life. (More on this on the 11th day of blogmas!) This requires gathering an occupational profile and getting to know your clients. OTs work with clients to facilitate function in all areas of occupation – activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, work, leisure, education, play, social participation, & sleep/rest.
If any or all of these things describe you or your personality, then OT may be a good fit for you! I recommend observing OT in a variety of settings before applying to OT school. Try observing pediatrics, an inpatient setting, or perhaps an outpatient hand therapy setting. This will expose you to a few of the areas that OTs can work, since it is such a broad career path.
Thanks for reading! If you have questions about OT or OT school, comment below or message me on Instagram!