April is Occupational Therapy Month: OT Observations & Trends


Throughout my 15 years as an Occupational Therapist, I have often considered how to promote and help people understand what exactly Occupational Therapy is. I have contemplated this many times, because most people don’t fully understand it and would benefit from learning how it might help them or a loved one. When April rolls around, it is time to get the word out about this wonderful profession.

Do you know what Occupational Therapists do? I was surprised to learn, early on as a new OT, that some physicians did not know how this therapy could help their patients recover more easily and more completely. They simply did not understand what Occupational Therapy was. I was stunned to learn that we had to promote and educate people about our profession, so people could be helped in unique ways that only Occupational Therapy can do.

Many people think that it has to do with helping people find an occupation or a job. This is an obvious conclusion. However, it is much, much more than that. Occupation refers to what ‘occupies’ a person’s life. This can be from brushing your teeth in the morning, to getting dressed, to your golf swing. Occupational Therapists help people engage in their lives fully by creating ways for a person to participate in the occupations or activities they would like to, as independently and joyously as possible. This encompasses assisting people with their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Occupational Therapists work in a variety of settings. We work in school districts assisting children with developmental delays to engage as fully as possible in the learning environment. Occupational Therapists may assist someone who had a stroke with paralysis to become stronger to be able take care of themselves with feeding, eating, dressing, and so on. You will find Occupational Therapists in mental health settings assisting individuals to relate to their lives in meaningful ways through the use of Art Therapy and other fabulous interventions.

I have noticed a trend happening where Occupational Therapists are expanding their horizons and getting trained in and providing Holistic Therapies, also known as CAM (Complementary Alternative Medicine), or Integrative Medicine. This is a trend happening in all of health care, as we have learned the calming benefits of Meditation and Relaxation, and how it can help lift depression and lower stress and anxiety. Yoga is sweeping the nation as it has health benefits that can help people prevent or recover from an illness and and injury. Energy Healing and CranioSacral Therapy are becoming more routinely integrated in to patient care plans as they can assist with lowering pain and improve alignment of the body, mind, and spirit. These are just a few of the many Holistic Therapies that abound.

I am also observing how more Occupational Therapists are becoming Certified Life or Health & Wellness Coaches to assist people to prevent illness, lower stress, and create the lives they want to lead. Occupational Therapist’s scope of practice is well-suited for incorporating Coaching in to their practice.

These trends are happening in all of health care , because we can’t keep spending money to help people get better after they have become ill. It is much more cost effective to keep people well and to prevent illness. Plus, it is much more humane. Many are seeing the value in building healthier lifestyles that complement how they want to live, and Occupational Therapists are at the forefront of this.

Occupational Therapy is a remarkable profession that assists individuals to live their best lives. Occupational Therapists believe that we find meaning in our lives through the activities we engage in.  I am proud to be an Occupational Therapist. Would it be easier to just say I’m a Physical or Speech Therapist and have people easily understand what it is? Yes, but I love the richness, complexity and holistic approach of this profession, and am enjoying being a part of its expansion in to new possibilities for us all!

Emmy Vadnais is a Holistic Occupational Therapist & Intuitive Healer who will help you Remove Barriers to Peace and Joy. She can be reached at [email protected] or 651-292-9938.

About the Author

Emmy Vadnais, OTR/L has over 20 years experience providing Holistic, Integrative Health, Wellness and Prevention Care in a variety of settings. She is a Holistic Occupational Therapist, Intuitive Healer, Health Coach, teacher, consultant, and writer. She provides holistic and integrative healthcare and intuitive development education to healthcare practitioners and organizations. She is the founder of the Holistic OT Community and is in private practice in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is available for individual sessions, tutoring, classes, and consulting. She can be contacted at [email protected] Visit her websites at EmmyVadnais.com and HolisticOT.org.

4 Enlightened Replies

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  1. What an interesting and informative article about the role of Occupational Therapists. I now more fully understand why they have a link with Holistic Therapies. I want to let readers know that I personally experienced your work through an Interactive Guided Imagery consultation, and found it to be very valuable!

    • Emmy Vadnais says:

      Hi Shelley! Thank you! I’m glad you found the Imagery consultation valuable. Isn’t it amazing to find your own inner wealth of resources of Intuition and Imagination, and how easily they can help you forward in life? Thanks for commenting and keep on enjoying helping people realize their dreams!
      All the Best!

  2. Sonja Um-Siri says:

    Thanks for this, Shelley! I often joke that I want to see an Occupational Psychotherapist like they had in the movie, “Office Space”! But the guided visualization sounds really interesting and helpful! I have the utmost respect for Occupational Therapists after accompanying my ex-husband to his OT sessions following his strokes. To think that some OTs help you go deeper into what it is in your heart that you want to do is inspiring!

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