Do you know what occupational therapy is?
If not, you aren’t alone.
October is Occupational Therapy Month in Canada, which aims to raise awareness of the profession within Canada while highlighting the increasing role of occupational therapists (OTs) in Canadian Society.
Kelly White, the McGill representative to the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, describes OT as “a healthcare profession where therapists work with clients in a partnership, helping them in adapting their environment or in getting them back to their work and leisure activities.” Clients of occupational therapists vary, including people with mental disabilities, those who have experienced trauma, the elderly, and more.
The job description of OTs is equally wide, assisting clients within areas of leisure, work, and self-care. Ultimately the role of this discipline is broad and seeks to assist in all aspects of a client’s life. As White says, “if something is meaningful to you, we’re going to help you try and achieve it.”
The OT program at McGill is relatively inchoate, as is the standardization of the practice in Canada; it only became mandatory in 2008 for occupational therapists to hold a masters of science in order to practice. At McGill, the degree conferred to Occupational Therapy students is a Masters in Rehabilitation Sciences with a major in Occupational Therapy, and there is no required area of undergraduate study.
The nascency of occupational therapy likely contributes to a widespread misunderstanding of what the program is, but White sees this as temporary.
“It’s hard to explain it all the time, but that’s why we’re out here [at the Y-intersection] today, to try and spread the word and define it, because it’s really valuable.”
McGill community members stopping by the booth set up by McGill’s OT students seemed responsive to the group’s goal of raising awareness. A game using ‘props’ from OT was used to show the role of adaptive technologies, splints, and more, emphasizing the role of ingenuity in the program.
Chloe Grover, a U3 physiology student, admitted that she’d “heard the phrase occupational therapy before, but wasn’t that familiar with it.”
“I definitely have a better idea of it now.”