Throughout the semester I've received a bunch of emails from prospective occupational therapy students. Here are some of the Q's & A's I've compiled, hopefully it will help someone out!
So OT's the same thing as PT, right?
Not exactly. When people ask me what occupational therapy is, I usually start off with something like "It's a little like physical therapy...", just to get them in the right mindset. OT's take a movement and make it functional and meaningful to their client/patient. For example, a person recently had a hip replacement. This may be the first time they're using a walker and have 'hip precautions' which means certain things such as not flexing the hip past 90 degrees... so how do they maneuver around their small kitchen safely with a walker? and how do they get into their car without flexing their recovering hip? and if you can't bend over, how the heck do you get your shoes/socks/pants on? That's where occupational therapy comes in. We give people the strategies and tools necessary to adapt and compensate.
That's just a simple example of OT for physical dysfunction... OTs are very much known for upper extremity rehab including splinting. OT's help people with various diseases or disabilities who would like to live independent and meaningful lives. OTs take on so many roles, I'll probably have to write a post just about the various aspects of OT. It's pretty much awesome.
Can I get into OT school with a BA in Psychology?
YES!!! I got my degree in Psychology with a minor in Holistic Health. Looking back I don't think I could have chosen a better major for the field. The theories of psychology, sociology, and anthropology are definitely a part of the OT field. You need to have an understanding of people, including group processes, mental illness and cognitive behavioral theory. OT is holistic, you are never treating an arm/ injury / mental illness, you are treating a person which includes every aspect of that individual. You're looking into their social, spiritual, cultural and environmental contexts as much as their physical.
Schools are competitive, what should I do before applying?
First of all, decide the school/s that you're applying to and get to know their prerequisites as early as possible. Some schools want the GRE, some don't. Some want physics, others don't require it. (Like mine, thank goodness!). The one thing that helped me the most was being in the field before I applied. Volunteer, observe, or get a job with occupational therapists. Really KNOW what OT is before you decide that you want to make it your career. Check out more than one setting. I worked at a rehab hospital that is primarily older adults and geriatrics and I observed in an outpatient pediatric clinic. Get to know the therapists you work with and see if one will be your mentor. I have a few and they've been my biggest supports and most valuable resource in school.
Is school hard?
Er that's a tough one. I would not call it hard as much as I'd say it's an incredible test on your ability to adapt, prioritize and be flexible. I might change my mind about this one next semester when the course work becomes more intense, but as far as my first semester went, the biggest challenge is learning to keep up. There is no break. You work on a major project/presentation/paper and you don't get that "freedom" feeling, because the next huge project/presentation/paper is due in a few days. You learn to deal with it though, and everyone in your class is going through the same experience, so I definitely never felt alone.
My advice is to remember that OT school is a huge priority, but it's not your only 'occupation'. If you figure out your learning style, it's still possible to go out on weekends with friends, hit the gym regularly, or pick up the guitar to just jam out and relax. Balance is the key! So are catnaps...
Where can you work with a degree in Occupational Therapy?
Tons of places.
Hospitals, rehab hospitals (inpatient and outpatient), nursing homes, schools, correctional facilities, mental health facilities, group homes, home health, even in client's workplaces.
For more info check out this site....