This is the question I hear everytime I say I’m an Occupational Therapy student. I will use this adorable project called A MONTRA / THE WINDOW as an instrument to tell the world all about the job I chose. I chose it mainly because it’s a job of love and from the heart, a job that requires a total commitment to other people and sharing with them. I chose it because I’m almost sure I will be happy and that Monday’s won’t ever be a problem. I chose this job because I’ve always known I came into this world to give something to other people, to improve people’s lives and this is the best job to achieve this mission. But what is this occupational therapy thing after all?
We all like to do something, right? Some swim, others cook, some really enjoy great dinners with friends, while others prefer to take long walks or travel. I could be here all day saying things everyone likes to do in their everyday life. Then there are things we all have to do, like taking a shower, walk, brush our teeth, in short everything that belongs to our human beings condition and that are part of our daily rotine. Everything we do is a part of us. Whether you do it because you have to or because we like to do it, all of those activities define us and add meaning to our lives.
Well, what if all of that was not possible? What if you were struggling with depression so badly you couldn’t even go out with your friends? What if your old granny couldn’t go shopping like she did all of her life? What if your young sister couldn’t play like any other child of her age? What if you were deprived from doing anything you love? This is were therapists act. We value each people’s interests, choices and essence. We develop strategies, we adapt everyday tasks, we help people physically, psychologically and socially in order to get them involved with evrything that makes them happy.
Occupational therapists can work anywhere in the world, wherever there is someone that cannot accomplish something that makes them feel good with themselves, something they value. The occupational therapist will ease the anguish for feeling useless, being forced to give up an activity or failing to do something. Occupational therapists will give these people the opportunity to regain the meaning of their lives. Isn’t it amazing that there is a job able to do that?
Sadly there is still many people who don’t know occupational therapists exist; sadly most people don’t distinguish occupational therapists from other professionals; sadly most people don’t know where we occupational therapists belong. But that won’t make us give up, we will continue to spread the word and show the world what we do; we will continue to spread smiles through our knowledge and practices. We are experts in occupation. No, we won’t take anyone’s time, nor we’ll find ways to occupy anyone’s free time. These are misconceptions about who we are. We will rather allow people to do what they like, want or need and for some reason you’re not able to.
During my first year in college, one of the most inspiring teachers I knew so far told us about this chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.”, as a way to explain us what we shall do as occupational therapists. This makes so much sense that I’m sure I won’t ever forget it. The most important thing is not to give people what they need or doing things for them, but show them that they are able to do anything by themselves, finding ways to make it possible. I am talking about the transformative power of occupation. By doing what they like, by realizing they are able, by feeling successful in a particular occupation hat they value, people automatically feel more motivated and their recovery is so much faster that it’s actually scientifically proven.
Occupation has the ability to transform people and their lives and the world will soon realize that.
This post was originally written in Portuguese. Click here for the original text.