As AOTA’s Centennial year closes, some of the 100 most influential people in occupational therapy took a moment to reflect on their careers, innovations in the field, changes in practice, and the future of the profession. Read more stories here.
The 100, with their various areas of practice and interest, all see different areas of opportunity for occupational therapy.
Barbara Hemphill emphasizes the need to focus on research. “Research,” she says, “will lead us into wider areas.”
“I think this has to be one of the most exciting times for occupational therapy,” says Janice Burke. “The big picture today is on health and wellness, and that is what occupational therapy has always been about. For OT, the opportunities are boundless. We can fit everywhere and anywhere—traditional health settings, community-, and individual-based [practice].
“We are only limited by our vision.”
Mary Beth Early sees an array of opportunities for occupational therapy: ergonomics; body mechanics; and habit development regarding technology, screen time, positioning, posture, and social behavior. She also sees providing intervention for emotional regulation and behavioral health for victims of trauma, persons with mental disorders, and persons in recovery as an area of opportunity for occupational therapy.
“For all of our patients and clients,” Early says, “we need to address healthy habits and control of impulses to engage in nonproductive, sedentary, and isolated behaviors.”
“This is an opportunity for us (with more practitioners, educators, and researchers) to share our story, our science, and our discipline,” says Thom Fisher. “Being bold and intentional can allow the public to understand what OTs and OTAs bring to the table with client care.”
Fisher also highlights the achievement of having licensure in all 50 states. “I think for policy makers to understand that the profession of occupational therapy—both levels—is regulated at the highest level in all states is significant and an opportunity.”
Mary Foto highlights the possibilities of electronic medical records (EMRs) as an opportunity for occupational therapy. “An electronic system shouldn’t just be for payment purposes,” says Foto, “it should service research and education. The same system can do all three.”
Charles Christiansen was drawn to occupational therapy by “its optimistic view of human possibility and its traditions as a client-centered, authentic, and activity-related” profession.
“In this new age fueled by abundant information and rapidly evolving digital technologies, it is likely that new medical and rehabilitation technologies will change the nature of the health problems that health practitioners face,” says Christiansen. “We can expect that novel technologies will either prevent or remedy chronic conditions or reduce the consequences of disabilities (consider mobility exoskeletons, sensory-neural implants, self-driving cars, and personal assistant robotics). These ‘game changing’ advances will change the current nature of occupational therapy practice dramatically.”
Christiansen looks forward to people dealing with issues such as depression, substance abuse, violence, obesity, and boredom benefiting from “legions of well-trained therapy personnel who will work in communities and homes to help people orchestrate their lives in healthful and fulfilling ways. They will use their knowledge of activity, human development, health, and well-being to guide individuals and groups as they actively explore options for creating lives of meaning through occupation.”
The 21st century will be a time when occupational therapy flourishes in the area of community wellness,” says Christiansen, “and the bygone eras of mental health and occupation-based intervention at the fore will experience a permanent renaissance.”