Occupational Therapy Philosophy

* ————————————————- Occupational Therapy: Integrating Art and Science * ————————————————- * ————————————————- What is occupational therapy? How does one define the profession and validate its worth in the medical field? Since its conception as an established health care profession, occupational therapy’s philosophy has been defined, redefined, and refined.
In their writings esteemed Occupational Therapists Mary Reilly and Susan Peloquin offer their own critical and revisionary ideas of occupational therapy’s worth, the basic need it fulfills, and its service to the healthcare profession. Both women ask their peers to refine what is uniquely inherent about occupational therapy and by doing so validate the profession’s contribution in serving the needs of man (Reilly, 1963; Peloquin,2002). * ————————————————-
In her 1962 Eleanor Clarke Slagle address entitled, “Occupational Therapy Can Be One Of The Great Ideas of 20th Century Medicine” Mary Reilly (1962) challenges her fellow colleagues to critically define Occupational Therapy’s value within the medical field. She initiates this critique by first asking the provocative question, “Is Occupational Therapy a sufficiently vital and unique service for medicine to support and society to reward” (Reilly,1962, p. 3)?

Reilly suggests it is precisely these critical questions and line of discourse that we as practitioners need to be embracing to maintain our unique and vital contribution to the healthcare realm. * ————————————————- Drawing inspiration from Occupational therapy’s earliest visions Suzanne M. Peloquin also seeks to engage her audience by asking to consider and reflect upon a different but equally important component that makes occupational therapy unique and vital to the health of man.
Quoting Ora Ruggles,an early contributor to the field of occupational therapy, Peloquin writes, “It is not enough to give a patient something to do with his hands. You must reach for the heart as well as the hands. It’s the heart that really does the healing” (Peloquin,2002). Through the use of visual imagery and storytelling Peloquin calls our attention to the profession’s earliest founders and their visionary beliefs. Peloquin eloquently reminds us of the healing power of the heart and the vital aspect of caring that is inherent and necessary in our profession. ————————————————- Furthermore, Peloquin maintains that when we undertake an integrative approach employing both “competency and caring” in healing we solidify our value as a profession (Peloquin 2012). She demonstrates this when she writes, “Three constructs deeply rooted in our profession’s culture and integral to its central character are well-presented in the early vision: integration, occupation, and caring”(Peloquin,1962,p. 525).
In contrast, Reilly engages her audience by putting forth a mandate that charges the practitioners of occupational therapy to validate the profession by inviting and seeking critical appraisal. “ When a professional organization as a whole accepts criticism as the dominating mode of thought, then indeed, theorizing flourishes and the intellectual atmosphere of their gatherings, is characterized by sweeping controversies. In this atmosphere of controversy, progress becomes somewhat assured” (Reilly, 1962, p. 3). * ————————————————-
In addition to engaging in critical debate Reilly believes that in order to establish credibility and worth, Occupational Therapy must strive to identify and define “the vital need of man which we serve and the manner in which we serve it”(Reilly p. 3). In this academic and investigative tone, Reilly delivers her lecture in a clear and orderly fashion. Her writing is concise and articulate as she methodically introduces an hypothesis in which postulates “That man, through the use of his hands, as they are energized by mind and will, can influence the state of his own health” (Reilly,1962,p. ). She formulates this theory and tests it by drawing upon a multi-discipline approach to research (Reilly, 1962). She charges her colleagues with the mandate to define man’s basic need for occupation in a scientific researchable manner and atmosphere. It is not enough to draw upon multiple disciplines such as the social sciences, biology, and neurophysiology, Reilly suggests we must also observe the anthropological , social, and biological study of occupation through “phylogenetic and ontogenetic” lenses Reilly,1962,p. 10) . Through this study of occupation and the therapeutic meaning of work Reilly defines a unique aspect of occupational therapy: “the profound understanding of the nature of work” (Reilly,1962,p. 9). Her thesis in this thought provoking address, her take home message, is so powerful that Peloquin describes Reilly’s hypothesis of human occupation as “one of the profession’s best visionary statements”(Peloquin,1962,p. 518). * ————————————————-
In contrast to Mary Reilly’s urging to attain a scientific understanding of man’s basic need for occupation, Peloquin’s reminiscent recalling of early visions of occupational therapy’s goals and unique attributes highlights the profession philosophy of meaningful and purposeful work in a client-centered modality of care. Incorporating the art of caring in our treatment paired with the extensive wealth of knowledge gleaned across multiple disciplines enables us as practitioners to guide the patient toward the occupation of living or as Peloquin puts it “allow us to see individuals occupying their lives” and “living well” (Peloquin,2002,p. 24). * ————————————————- Reilly also strongly embraces an integrated approach and outlines the importance of maintaining a individual or client-centered approach when assigning treatment. Her abhorrence of formulaic activity groups prescribed as therapy used in psychiatric settings in the 1960’s is detailed best when she writes, “activity programs so designed, tend to depersonalize,institutionalize and, in general, debase human nature” (Reilly,1962,p. 12). * ————————————————-
In their vastly different writings, different in style, in delivery and different in focus, these women have a common concern, passion, and desire for the preservation of occupational therapy. Mary Reilly aims to mark the profession as vital by focusing our attention to the distinctive quality that occupational therapy holds: the unique speciality of defining the value of“work” to man. (Reilly, 1962). It is this concept and the critical engagement from which great ideas such as this stems, are necessary in ensuring a professional organization’s existence in these dynamic and emanding times. Suzanne Peloquin also believes that occupational therapy’s attributes are unique and standout from others in the healthcare field. The uniqueness that Peloquin refers to and asks her readers to preserve and incorporate in our practice is the founding member’s early vision of caring and empathy. She writes, “To see hearts engaged is to see personal actualization, an occupational link with identity, a making of meaning.
The depiction transcends more limited visions of activity or productivity and allow us to see individuals occupying their lives”(Peloquin,1962,p524). * ————————————————- In an attempt to integrate Peloquin’s vision and Reilly’s hypothesis I refer to Peloquin’s remark, “Occupational therapy is not about balancing at some midpoint between two dimensions of practice, with either heart or hands getting about half of a practitioner’s attention; it is about reaching for both” (Peloquin,1962,p. 522).
Reilly collaborates this sentiment writing, “And more than all this, it implies that man, through the use of his hands, can creatively deploy his thinking, feelings and purpose to make himself at home in the world and to make the world his home” (Reilly,1962,p. 2). It is precisely this distinctive blending of visionary statements and scientific exploration that lends occupational its unique * ————————————————- vitality and credibility. Leaders in the field such as Peloquin, and Reilly inspire, shape and preserve the richness and dignity of the important dynamic nature of our field.

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