Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Occupational Therapy Blog carnival call for submissions

Your Therapy Source Inc. is the host for the next Occupational Therapy Blog Carnival. A blog carnival is a collection of articles on a specific topic. There have been two previously done on occupational therapy. All you have to do is submit your favorite OT blog post to the carnival at You must submit your blog article by Friday, May 1st. The OT Blog Carnival #3 is set to publish on May 4th.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

I don't want to make people independant: occupational heresy?

Occupational Therapists often talk a lot about independence and this often touted as being the goal of our intervention

"Occupational therapy is skilled treatment that helps individuals achieve independence" AOTA (don't get me started on how much a disagree with this statement!)

Independence is defined as "the state or quality of being independent" and independent as:

1. Not governed by a foreign power; self-governing.
2. Free from the influence, guidance, or control of another or others; self-reliant: an independent mind.
3. Not determined or influenced by someone or something else; not contingent: a decision independent of the outcome of the study.

If we (or more importantly our commissioners and clients) base goals on this definition
I believe that occupational therapy directed at independence is both outdated and naive. In reality I dont think the occupations in which we participate are rarely, if ever, truly independent.

Rather that what matters is the extent to which we have control over interdependace we share with others. I like (part of) the current wikipedia entry:
Interdependence is a dynamic of being mutually and physically responsible to and sharing a common set of principles with others... Two states that cooperate with each other are said to be interdependent. It can also be defined as the interconnectedness and the reliance on one another socially, economically, environmentally and politically.
Whats needed, in my humble opinion, is a review of our usage of the word independance an view shared with the authors of this paper who state:
"Independence has long been a key concept. A review of the literature shows that the term's meaning has shifted throughout the past century. However, despite its significance, the word's meaning has never been deeply analysed, and it is left to the interpretation of the individual practitioner; consequently, there is a conceptual confusion surrounding the term"
Thankfully I'm not alone in this viewpoint, Rosemary Hagedorn in her student staple textbook Foundations for Practice agrees but I'm not sure most OT have really evaluated the term.
You have to ask whether semantics really matter at all but to me it is important. Surely using the right language to define what we do must be key given the eternal OT struggle to explain our profession.

In light of the reverence the profession appears to give "independence" is it not well overdue that we make sure this is what we believe our intervention is aimed at?