Kimberly Breeden, MS, OTR/L, Coach & Founding Partner

A Practitioner’s Perspective: Responding to the statement : “OT is the OTHER THERAPY”

image of candles and words "OT is the ONLY therapy..."
Over the course of my 27 years of practice as both an OTA and an OT, I have very frequently been asked by clients “what does OT stand for?”  I have been surprised at the amount of times co-workers, who are physical therapy professionals, have answered “it is the OTHER THERAPY”. 

I am embarrassed to say that my responses to this statement have been mediocre at best.  I typically ignore the statement and then explain that OT stands for occupational therapy followed by a brief explanation of what services occupational therapy provides.  I am fully aware that every one of the co-workers who gave this response had no intention of directly disrespecting me.  But I do believe that their responses reflect a lack of understanding to what occupational therapy is, but most importantly, a lack of understanding of the value we bring to the team and the clients we serve.

As OT practitioners, we may even begin to question our own value as we hear these types of statements.  For many years this particular phrase has bothered me, lurking in the back of my mind, nagging me.  But the details of my career and family kept me distracted from a resolution.

In the last 5 years of my practice, I feel I have been more deliberate in my efforts to promote the profession of occupational therapy.  I find myself taking opportunities to share our unique training with my interdisciplinary teammates, which I am sure they have all been grateful for (insert wink emoji).  It was not too long ago that I was explaining to a co-worker, who is a nurse, the training and skills that occupational therapy practitioners use for psychosocial assessment and intervention.  I made the statement “OT is the only therapy discipline on our team that is recognized by the state as a mental health practitioner.” And there it was… we ARE the ONLY therapy.  As occupational therapy practitioners we can and should embrace what makes us unique, what makes us the “only therapy”.   We are the only therapy that is trained in meeting the wholistic needs of the client.  Our training prepares us to equally address the biological, psychological and social aspects that impact an individual’s ability to engage in meaningful occupations. Other disciplines are trained specifically to provide treatment in biomechanical interventions or specifically in psychosocial interventions.  But I have never met a human being who was merely a result of their biological make-up or their psychological make-up.  Every human being is unique because they are a person, an individual whose beliefs, spirituality, culture, sexuality, thoughts, personality, habits, routines, roles, experiences and environment influence every aspect of their existence.  These factors impact an individual’s health and well-being. We must consider these factors equally when addressing our clients’ needs in medical as well as non-medical settings.  We can’t help someone live their life to the fullest if we don’t understand what makes them an individual.

Occupational therapy practitioners understand that health is more than the absence of disease; it is achieved by mental, physical and spiritual well-being  (World Health Organization, 2006). I am excited that there is growing evidence to the effectiveness of biopsychosocial interventions that support the very foundation that our profession was built on.  

To me, this is just one example of how we as a profession are not just unique, but absolutely essential. I feel like every day, after working with each client, I can add to my list of things that make us distinct. Now, I can’t wait for someone to refer to us as the “other therapy”. I will be more than ready to respond!

In recognition of Occupational Therapy Month, I challenge you to consider how you would finish the sentence: OT is the only therapy that… 

Kimberly Breeden, MS, OTR/L, Founding Partner
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Occupation-Based Practice: What Does it Really Mean?

Occupation-based treatment showcases our distinct value in an environment where payment is changing from volume to value. This workshop from the Arizona Occupational Therapy Association explores what it really means to be occupation-based and provide a formula to guide treatment planning.
1 hour for ONLY $15