Brain Science and Updates From the Field

Occupational Therapy celebrates 100 years

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Each April is Occupational Therapy Month, but in 2017, the commemoration carries with it a little more significance.

That’s because this year marks the 100th anniversary since occupational therapy was established by the National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy, now called the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Occupational therapists provide treatment to individuals through the therapeutic use of everyday activities, or occupations (AOTA).

It’s a charge at the forefront of Stairways’ Psychiatric Rehabilitation program’s mission, according to Christine Linkie, the program director.

“Both Psych Rehab and occupational therapy focus on skill-building and aim to develop fulfilling life goals,” Linkie said. “The idea behind OT is that people need meaningful activity. Every human being needs it and if you don’t have it, you start to falter.”

The modern version of occupational therapy traces its roots back to World War I, when soldiers suffering from physical and emotional trauma worked on handicrafts and vocational skills as a means of distraction as well as a way to increase physical activity and improve morale.

Since then, OT has developed into a science-driven, evidence-based profession whose goal is to help clients live meaningful lives. And a century later, the therapy is still predicated on the blending of physical and mental health.

“OT is a very holistic profession in that it’s not just physical but emotional and mental as well,” Linkie said, noting that low occupational activity is directly correlated with decreases quality of life.

“The holistic approach lends itself very well to the mental health population because it focuses on quality of life, which is a particularly important part especially since we know people with serious mental illness live, on average, shorter lives than average,” she said.

Stairways’ Psych Rehab makes this integrated approach a priority in its programming.

The clinical department holds group classes at BLOOM Collaborative year-round aimed at developing skills, increasing engagement and improving the quality of life for clients. These classes as well as all of Psych Rehab’s efforts help people develop skills for living, education, vocation and socialization in the home and in the community.

Linkie, who has made presentations on the topic of Psych Rehab and its relationship to occupational therapy at multiple events including this year’s AOTA national conference, said Psych Rehab’s focus on helping clients perform activities that allow them to reach their potential draws from the efficacy of occupation therapy.

“It’s really about providing the meaning that we all strive to achieve,” she said. “That is the piece that is most important.” 

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