“Although teams that are large, virtual, diverse, and composed of highly educated specialists are increasingly crucial with challenging projects, those same four characteristics make it hard for teams to get anything done” (Gratton & Erickson, 2007)
Occupational therapy practitioners are some of the most creative problem-solvers I know. Every day, they partner with clients to solve problems of every day living to enhance people’s lives. They use ordinary objects to do the extraordinary. They disrupt the notion that things need to be done a certain way, simply because that’s how they’ve always been done.
Despite the creative energy that fuels OTs and OTAs to be exceptional, we repeatedly miss opportunities to take a seat at the table when products are designed and social issues are tackled. Collaboration with people outside of our healthcare sphere is difficult. The quote above is from a HBR article about the challenges and opportunities that come with collaborating with other professionals and highlights the paradox of teamwork. There are barriers to working with people who have a totally different professional jargon, or whose goals aren’t people-centered; we love the idea of diversity of perspectives, but in practice, it can be chaotic. And when it works, it can be beautiful. It is worth us branching out and learning how to be collaborative with others. We owe it to ourselves, our profession, and most importantly, the people we serve.
Amanda Jozkowski, a pediatric occupational therapist, saw a need among young children with SMA and their families for technology that facilitates communication and engagement. She had an idea for an important product, and took the next step of assembling a diverse team of specialists to approach the design and implementation from a holistic perspective. In this episode, Amanda shares the triumphs and trials of working with an inter-professional team, and how their collaboration has led to the creation of YCAT, which is increasing engagement for children with SMA.
This episode also covers advice about working with people who have different perspectives so that you and I can take that next step toward cross-pollination of ideas and collaboration to better serve our communities and clients.
We interviewed Amanda Wiles, a blogger and pediatric therapist who most recently worked in an outpatient setting before going back to school to earn an OTD. In this episode, we asked Amanda about her tips for interviewing, how to approach the job search and application process, and how to juggle multiple offers.
If you found Amanda’s insight helpful, check our her blog, DevotedOT for more great, relevant content. Here are some great posts to start with:
If you want to feel empowered to be the best OT you can be, you should connect with Dev Neu – that’s what I do when I need a little mOTivation! I am proud to call Dev a friend and fellow OT, and you will, too, when you listen to this episode.
Dev shares his experience with travel therapy, which provides OT practitioners the opportunity to live out their OT calling in a range of cities, states, countries, and practice settings. This episode covers the do’s and don’ts of travel therapy, including tips on negotiation, contracts, interviewing, choosing an agency to work with, and more. Even beyond the tips and tricks, Dev challenges listeners to know themselves and make the choices in their careers that best reflect who they are and what they need.
In addition to being a travel therapist, Dev is The Rainbow OT! Through his social media presence and OT practice, he is promoting inclusion, representation, and education. Now, he is doing the same through his new blog: www.therainbowOT.com
Check out Dev’s blog and follow him on Instagram and Facebook for the latest to brighten your day and further your practice.
This episode is the first in a miniseries we’re calling Passion Meets Paycheck, and it’s all about helping you feel prepared to find the right OT job for YOU!
After years of school and fieldwork, the rush of FINALLY being an OT or OTA is thrilling. But, when it comes to finding a job, feelings of stress and confusion tend to set in.
In celebration of all the recent OT graduates, we talked with OTs who have graduated in the past few years to uncork some of the do’s, don’ts and helpful tips to navigating the confusing job search. Each guest has a unique journey to finding their first position as an OT and wisdom that will help YOU take your next steps in your own journey.
In this episode, we talked with Colette Chapp, MS, OTRL, an OT who graduated last December and has found herself employed in THREE different positions. She talks about her application, interview, and negotiation processes, identifying some red flags that made her think twice before accepting a job, and “green flags” that gave her the confidence to say YES to an offer (3 times!).
Colette shared that despite submitting dozens of applications, she only heard back from half of the employers. While this is common, rarely are people warned about this truth. If you are applying for your first job as an OT or OTA, be confident in your skills and keep putting yourself out there – you WILL find the right job for you.
Have questions for Colette? Comment below or send her an email: email@example.com
Know a recent graduate or someone looking for a new job as an OT or OTA? Tell them about OT Uncorked, and follow us on social media @OTuncorked
Plus, don’t forget to hit the subscribe button on your favorite podcast player to stay up to date on recent episodes.
In this episode, I talked with Dominique Keogh, founder of Just Adapt, a nonprofit start-up that is promoting justice by connecting people with the equipment they need. Dominique shares wisdom she has gained through the process of starting a 501(c)(3).
Dominique found a slew of resources to guide the research stage of Just Adapt, including online courses, books, and people she already knew who had wisdom and experience to share. Here, I highlight a few of these resources, including Dominique’s recommended book list!
Are you interested in starting a business? Entrepreneur Magazine offers online webinars On Demand and Live covering a range of topics related to starting and growing businesses. It’s a great place to start if you’re looking for inspiration or ways to develop your brand.
We’re excited to announce that OT Uncorked is getting a facelift with a NEW LOGO! To celebrate, Miranda interviewed Lioba Menger, an Occupational Therapist and Artist, about the connections between those two roles and so much more!
OT Uncorked: Lioba, I am so excited to release this new logo. I love how you made our vision come to life! I want to highlight your skills as an artist and how they influence your practice, but before we get to that, tell me a little bit about why you became an OT.
Lioba Menger: The way I like to answer that is by going through my timeline. In high school, I was looking into going into the medical field, but I didn’t want to become a doctor, because ‘ain’t nobody got time’ or money for that and I didn’t want to be a nurse. I’m really into music so I was actually looking into music therapy at one time, but it’s narrow. Then, a good family friend of mine who is an OT said to me, “hey, have you ever thought about [OT]?” I didn’t really know what it was, so I started shadowing people and then I did a program in high school my senior year where it was half in the hospital, half in regular high school, and I got to shadow more OTs and other practitioners there. I wanted to be in the medical field, but in a profession that allows me to develop relationships with patients or clients over longer periods of time, which you don’t really get in other professions and in more acute settings. It also fits well with the lifestyle I would like to have in the future with having a family.
OT Uncorked: You talked about wanting to get to know clients over longer periods of time, so what setting are you working in now?
Lioba: I am currently a new-ish grad pediatric OT. I work at a private day school for children and young adults age 6 to 22 with intellectual disabilities, and as I like say, most of them have different ‘flavors of autism.’ Some of the students have been there for several years, and others stay for a matter of months. They are enrolled in this school because their behaviors make it difficult for them to be served in most public schools and many live in residential settings or group homes.
OT Uncorked: That’s a tough one to start out in! What are some of the ways you enjoy how you’re practicing OT right now?
Lioba: Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be a pediatric OT right now, so I feel like, because of the unique population, even within OT it is a very specialized population, I have a lot of leeway to experiment and to just meet the young adults and kids where they are at. Because there is a wide range of ages and cognitive function, there’s a lot I can do, so I like that I kind of have the freedom to develop myself as an OT and continue to learn about this population as well as the school system and the whole legal process behind OT.
OT Uncorked: What have you learned from working with this unique population?
Lioba: I’ve learned a lot. It’s a challenging population, but I like how broad my work is. The organization I work for is very trauma-informed, because a lot of the children I work with have trauma in their past, so that coupled with intellectual disabilities is difficult, but rewarding.
OT Uncorked: You mentioned that you had considered music therapy as a career. Tell me more about the role of music in your life.
Lioba: Music has always been part of my life. I started instrumental music with the violin when I was six. I was the only person in my family to venture out to brass with the horn. I’ve always felt a draw to music and how it impacts people. I thought I could impact people through music because I knew I didn’t want to go into a performance career. But now, my opinion and relationship with music and OT has changed. In OT school, I looked more at the nuts and bolts of musician injury – not how I could impact people through music, but how I could help people who make music. I would say in the setting I’m in now, I’d love to include more music because it’s an organic way of getting to know people and it works on a lot of great skills, but I haven’t done too much with it, for lots of reasons, mostly logistically.
OT Uncorked: In addition to music, I know there are other art forms you enjoy exploring, because the main reason I’m interviewing, aside from you being a great friend, is because you created the new artwork for OT Uncorked. So you are also visually talented… Or talented in the visual arts? I’m not even sure how to word that, but tell me more about your history with visual arts and what that looks like in your life.
Lioba: Well first, thank you for letting me do this. I love doing this kind of stuff, and I’m excited to be doing this with you. I’ve always liked to draw, and I think it helps my creative side come up with random crafts to do with the kids. For example, the other day, a kid was stimming with a piece of string, and I remember seeing this YouTube video of dipping string in paint and then putting it between two pieces of paper and pressing down, then slowly pulling the string out to get this really cool streaky line. If you do it in green, it looks like a plant, which I’m really into. It’s stuff like that, when I get to incorporate what the kids like. I think art has helped me be creative in my profession, but it’s also been very calming for me and fun. I used to do a lot of pencil and graphite, and then I transitioned to doing more pen and ink doodles and design stuff, which is how we landed together talking about this. My parents put me in art classes through middle and high school outside of school, which was really helpful.
OT Uncorked: It’s cool to hear how you’ve incorporated your own occupations into how you relate to your clients. I think we talk a lot about therapeutic use of self, but that’s really it in action!
Lioba: Yeah, absolutely. I think therapeutic use of self can go both ways. There is definitely a line between professional and personal relationships, but if you share a little of yourself with your client and invite them to engage in your passion as well, it’s kind of reciprocal. They might absolutely love it too, and it might help them. It not only helps build rapport but can also help the therapeutic process, not just physically, but through mental healing.
OT Uncorked: I love what you’re saying. I hope you know we’re totally doing an episode together about the use of the arts for healing at some point.
Lioba: That would be great! I also just want to mention that I like the story of how we came together to come up with the design for the new logo and how we used our OT thought process to make decisions.
OT Uncorked: I do, too! We were at AOTA 2019 sitting in the main stage area waiting for a session to start, and we were talking about the podcast. It worked out perfectly, since you always have your doodle pad on you. As we were talking, I looked over and you were sketching out designs and our collaboration just sort of launched from there. I really wanted the logo to convey the casual nature of my conversations with guests and highlight the wine motif. It was fun to consider font choices, patterns, and layouts to decrease visual clutter, make it easier to process, visually, and capture the essence of the podcast. I’m excited by what we came up with!
Lioba: I am, too!
OT Uncorked: Aside from art, what are some of your favorite occupations?
Lioba: Personally, I really like making music. Sometimes practicing isn’t too great, but I enjoy making music with others in a concert band. I really enjoy being an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and working as an OT. I enjoy tending to my plants -that’s a big thing for me, too. I also do civil war re-enactments. Oh, and I love motorcycle riding!
OT Uncorked: I love the diversity in your occupations. I’ve known you for a while, but I still don’t understand: how do re-enactments work? Is that something people can watch or is it more for the people participating?
Lioba: There are living history events and then there are re-enactments, which are more to do with battles. You’re a member of a unit or company – it’s all military based – so your unit is part of a regiment. Everyone has different ranks, and then we sleep and camp in canvas tents and everything tries to be as authentic as possible. Some people go above and beyond, but it’s an educational thing for spectators about how people lived. That’s what I love about it. I’ve always been into history and pretty dresses – I love the historical part of it. Some of the ladies bring out their spinning wheels, but I, as a medic – I’m an EMT in real life, but in re-enacting, they call me a medic – actually dress up as a field surgeon, and go out on the field. I have all my medical stuff in a haversack and then I take care of people who sprain their ankle or pass out, or whatever. That’s how I can be involved. I love doing the female impression, but I also get bored if I’m on the sidelines and I didn’t want to carry a rifle. This is a way I can actually help out.
OT Uncorked: So when you’re doing a medic impression, are you actually applying your EMT skills with the actors?
Lioba: Yeah, so in camp, a yellow flag signifies that there’s a field hospital. There are definitely re-enactors that portray surgeons or go out on the field and carry people off with stretchers for show, but everyone my unit has medical training and provides care to anyone who needs it. I’m still learning, because I’m only in my third year of re-enacting, but before I started, I thought it was a weird but awesome hobby to have. Now, I really enjoy it and it became my weird hobby… Because everyone needs a weird hobby.
OT Uncorked: I love that. Everyone needs a weird hobby.
Lioba: That’s actually something I ask people sometimes, “What is your weird hobby?” Like my weird hobby is I spend way too much time and money on re-enacting and plants, so when I’m first getting to know somebody, that’s what I ask them. So, Miranda, what is your weird hobby?
OT Uncorked: I was just thinking that. I don’t know! I’m sure I have a bunch. Maybe my weird hobby is podcasting… I also take ballroom dance classes, and I like plants. But I’m not good at keeping them alive. Hmm, I’ll have to think about this one. You have so many good ones!
Lioba: I’m going to have nothing interesting about me after this – I’m just going to have everything out in this post, and if someone wants to get to know me, I’m going to refer them to you!
OT Uncorked: Send them my way! I’ll brag about you. Speaking of which, do you do other art-related freelance work?
Lioba: Yes! I’m always open to collaborating on projects. People can reach out to me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
OT Uncorked: Awesome. Thank you for sharing your talents with me!
Lioba: Thank you! It was fun. It’s always great to have something to share
In this two part interview, I talked with Rob Ferguson, MHS, OTR/L, an occupational therapist in the University of Michigan Health System whose practice involves the use of virtual contexts, virtual reality, gaming, and other computer technologies to help clients reach their occupational goals. If you’re wondering what this looks like in practice, you can catch a glimpse of Rob’s work in this video.
Rob and I also uncorked aspects of evidence-based practice, and how to read research findings through the lens of our clinical reasoning and judgement. I mentioned an article I recently read about therapeutic gaming for people with Parkinson’s disease. In this RCT, the researchers studied the effects of an exergame on UE function. The tablet-based game required participants to swipe the screen repeatedly. When they analyzed the data, here is what they found:
Playing the exergame only improved their ability to swipe faster while playing that exergame…
Herein lies the beauty of task-based practice: repetitive task practice serves to improve performance for specific tasks or movements. When gaming technologies are used without a purposeful, occupational goal, they are simply games, and serve no other [billable] purpose. One of the major points I took away from this talk is the use of therapeutic technology as a TOOL to facilitate the achievement of client-centered goals:
During the episode, Rob highlights a collaboration with Erin Muston-Firsch, MS, OTR/L at Craig Hospital, whose contact information is available on the Craig Hospital website. If you have any questions about integrating therapeutic technology and gaming into your practice, Rob invites you to reach out to him via Twitter: @robferguson_OT or Email: email@example.com
In this episode, I interviewed Dr. Kate Eglseder, an OT with 20+ years experience with SCI rehabilitation. In this episode, she shares what she’s learned through her clinical practice and research with partners of people with SCI.
If you haven’t listened to the episode, find OT Uncorked on your favorite podcast player and take a listen. In this 30 minute conversation, Kate talks about the role of OT in giving clients and their partners permission to ask questions and explore what sexuality and intimacy looks like after injury. While Kate’s experience is with the SCI community, the ideas she gives apply to any client we serve in any population.
One major take-away is that addressing these issues is well within our scope of practice. If you have your OTPF sitting on your desk like I do, take a glance at the tables detailing occupations, client factors, performance skills, and contexts and environments through the lens of sexuality, sexual activity, relationships, and intimacy. I challenge you to see how many of these skills/categories relate! I bet you’ll notice, just as I did, the many ways we can support people’s participation in relationships and expression of sexuality.
Kate and I briefly mentioned the PLISSIT model, which is frequently mentioned in research and practice across many disciplines as a way of approaching sexuality. The original 1976 article is linked above, but I outline the model here, too.
The main idea is to initiate a channel of communication, giving clients Permission to talk about sexuality, intimacy, sexual activity, etc. As OT practitioners, whether comfortable or experienced with talking about the nitty gritty of people’s sexual participation or not, we can easily give permission. When I worked in an inpatient facility, I would introduce myself, then give a brief summary of what occupational therapy is and why, in broad terms, they were referred to us. Sometimes, it sounded something along the lines of:
“As an occupational therapist, I care about how you occupied your time before you came into the hospital, and how you’ll occupy your time after you leave. I want you to feel prepared to do what you need and want to do, even with the new challenges you’re experiencing. During therapy, we will address self-care, hobbies, home maintenance, employment, school, sexuality, sleep, and what ever else is important for you to return to…”
My current introduction is not perfect, and certainly doesn’t capture the full breadth of occupational therapy, but for now, it gives me the opportunity to tell them a little bit about why I’m coming into their room, and, I hope, conveys my true hope to help them engage in meaningful occupations. Additionally, I have seen faces perk up when I mention sexuality in my list of what we can address in therapy, and more importantly, I have heard people voice their previously secret concerns to me regarding their relationships and sexuality after injury. This first part of the PLISSIT model is so important and is truly something any OT working with an adult population (or parents of younger individuals for whom this may become a topic of concern in the future) can do without any further education.
The next part of the PLISSIT model, Limited Information requires only basic knowledge of how a diagnosis or health status may affect sexuality. This can include topics of self-image, self-esteem, social and community participation, reproductive function, communication, bladder and bowel care, dressing, child rearing, religion and spirituality, sleep and rest, problem-solving, or self-advocacy, to name only a few. When sharing Limited Information, the idea is to plant the seed. I have found this helpful when working with people who have no idea what questions to even begin to ask.
Offering Specific Suggestions does not require you to have a degree in sexology – it can simply involve applying what you already know about occupation, body systems, social participation, positioning, routines, etc. Our expertise applies to all occupations and performance – you know more than you think you know about sexuality and intimacy! Don’t know how to answer a client’s questions? That’s ok. You as an OT have access to a myriad of resources that you are well-trained to navigate and synthesize, and can bring your findings back to your patient. Beyond the information you provide, your clients will appreciate your honesty about what you know and what you are still learning.
Finally, Intensive Therapy rounds out the PLISSIT model, and refers to more intensive, expert approaches. As with Specific Suggestions, if you are not an expert in sexuality and intimacy, that’s ok! You have access to other professionals who may be more prepared to address the specific questions or concerns. Most OT practitioners I know are great at connecting people, so use those skills and help bridge gaps in clients’ experiences by working as a team.
Regardless of your current role as a practitioner, I hope this episode has helped you realize how prepared you are as an OT or OTA to be part of a team that supports client sexuality.
Check out the list of resources below, including an article that Kate and I published together!
2017 Ménage à Trois, California Red Blend
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Eglseder, K. (2017). The lived experiences and occupations of intimate partners of individuals with spinal cord injury related to sexuality – abstract. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71, 1.
Eglseder, K. (2016). Addressing sexuality in the clinic: Simple steps for practitioners. OT Practice, 21(17), 21-23.
Eglseder, K., & Demchick, B. (2017). Sexuality and spinal cord injury. The lived experiences of intimate partners. Occupational Therapy Journal of Research, 1-7.
Annon J. (1976). The PLISSIT model: A proposed conceptual scheme for the behavioural treatment of sexual problems. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 2, 1-15.
Taylor, B., Davis, S. (2007). The extended PLISSIT model for addressing the sexual wellbeing of individuals with an acquired disability or chronic illness. Sex and Disability, 25, 135–139.
Eglseder, K., Webb, S., & Rennie, M. (2018). Sexual functioning in occupational therapy education: A survey of programs,” The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy, 6(3). https://doi.org/10.15453/2168-6408.1446
Please add to the conversation by commenting below.
The opioid epidemic is a crisis affecting people of all ages, races, and wealth. How do we as OTs respond to the urgent need we see around us? In this episode, you’ll meet Dr. Jenna Yeager, an OT who is working to equip OTs with the skills and tools they need to treat our clients holistically in light of this epidemic.
In this episode, Jenna talks about her role on the AOTA Ad Hoc Committee on Opioid Drug Abuse, which created this report to present to the Representative Assembly regarding next steps for our profession regarding this issue.
Interested in learning more about pain management? Start here! Earn CEUs by reading this article, Opioid Guidelines and Their Implications for Occupational Therapy, published by AOTA and take the exam at the bottom.
Jenna references an article written by colleague Donna Costa, entitled “Occupational Therapy’s Role in Countering Opioid Addiction,” which can be found in the January 2017 issue of OT Practice
I also recommend Ashely Uyeshiro Simon and Chantelle Collins’ article in AJOT from May 2017 about a Lifestyle Redesign® program for chronic pain management. If you are unfamiliar with the Lifestyle Redesign® process, I HIGHLY recommend you check it out here. The result of research at USC, Lifestyle Redesign® is just about as OT as it gets – it promotes healthy habits and routines for the management of chronic conditions. Extensive research has been done to apply this process to a range of populations, including people with chronic pain.
As always, CommuOT is a fabulous resource for OTs and OTAs to share ideas and resources. This post from October 2018 highlights features of the SUPPORT act, and how it affects OT’s role in pain management.
Do you have experience with the treatment of chronic pain or opioid abuse? Please join the conversation by commenting below.
In the FIRST episode of OT Uncorked, I met with Dr. Amy Lamb, president of the American Occupational Therapy Association.
When we recorded the episode, Amy had just delivered her Farewell Address as President of AOTA at the 2019 AOTA Annual Conference and Expo in New Orleans, Louisiana. After taking photos with her adoring fans, Amy and I met backstage in her green room over a glass of champagne.
I may have brought cheap champagne and scoured the convention center for glasses, only to find waxy paper cups to drink from, but that didn’t stop Amy and I from toasting to our fellow OTs, and to her dedicated volunteer work as President these past 3 years.
In this episode, we kicked off the official launch of OT Uncorked by having some fun. Over the years, Amy Lamb has shared her vision for the OT profession and worked tirelessly to advocate for positive change for OTs, OTAs, and the people we serve. We have heard her speak at conferences, watched videos in which she shares updates with members of AOTA, and read her letters and posts regarding policy and other updates relevant to our practice. You may know Amy through her work as president of AOTA, but how well do you the woman behind the title?
Spoiler alert: After listening to this episode, you’ll want to sit down for a glass of wine with Amy, too!!
In the episode, Amy and I talk about all the mostimportant topics – like Karaoke, journaling, and Harry Potter, to name a few… Sitting just a few feet away from us, Amy’s husband, son, daughter, and extended family listened in on our recording – a real studio audience! They shared laughs with us and their faces were beaming with pride, because behind every great leader is a tribe of people filling her up, so she can pour over into the lives of all she serves.
Thank you, Amy, for your many years of service to AOTA!
Visit your favorite Podcast app to find this episode and all OT Uncorked episodes
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If you weren’t at the 2019 AOTA Conference and Expo in New Orleans, you can still listen to Amy’s powerful Farewell Address, along with the other main stage addresses, by logging onto AOTA.