My interest in occupational therapy began, as many others did, with a passion for helping others. With time, I have realized that I place more value on being able to help others help themselves. I strongly believe that every individual should have the opportunity to lead an empowered and fulfilled life, regardless of one’s own level of functional ability. This is why occupational therapy aligns well with my personal and professional values and beliefs; it helps to enable people to engage in everyday life through meaningful occupations. With inspiration from Rachel Thibeault, I want to enable individuals and communities to create and live meaningful lives in a way that keeps their accomplishments in the spotlight and my role in the background.
I have previously participated in an eight week community development volunteer placement in Tanzania where I learned both implicit and explicit lessons that remain present and applicable in every aspect of my life. My volunteer responsibilities required four of us to work between 6-8 hours a day, five days a week with limited support and guidance from two organization members in country. I refined my leadership, communication and organization skills by coordinating and running a variety of workshops with the community on topics including Literacy for Business, General Health and Wellness Education to at-risk youth, HIV/AIDS Prevention and Awareness, Local Government, and Netball. One of the most significant learning opportunities was being able to successfully integrate and adapt to a vastly different culture. I learned to apply creative problem-solving skills while developing classes and programs on unfamiliar topics with few resources. My work with the local partner organization, Faraja Trust Fund, created change within the community by providing them with support and education on organizational strategies that created a more efficient system of service delivery.
A personal experience to demonstrate my independence and resilience beyond my time in Tanzania can be reflected in my recent backpacking trip to Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. I travelled for a total of four months in a country with an unfamiliar language and culture, with the first five weeks being on my own. I attribute my enjoyment and success of the trip in part to my ability to maintain a positive attitude, despite challenging situations, and my ability to creatively manage problems as they arise in a calm and goal directed manner.
During my time on placement at Providence Care Mental Health Services in Forensic Psychiatry, I gained valuable experience working with a challenging and unfamiliar population. I was often requested on short notice and with minimal guidance to run an individual or group program. I was able to successfully meet the demands and received positive feedback from clients and staff on my performance. The unpredictable nature of the fieldwork environment led me to develop the ability to quickly apply clinical reasoning skills. Working on an interdisciplinary team allowed me to build professional and collaborative working relationships and contribute effectively as a team player. I received an excellent review of my performance from my preceptor with comments highlighting her confidence in my abilities to excel as an occupational therapist.
I have realized over the past two years in training to be an occupational therapist that I have a love for mental health and the various ways it affects people’s occupational lives. I have a genuine curiosity for how someone experiences life with a mental illness and I find that the closer I am able to see the world through their eyes, the more likely I am able to support them in achieving their goals. I thrive in creating trusting therapeutic relationships and pride myself on my ability to build rapport with clients.
Through my personal, academic, and work experiences, I have become confident that occupational therapy is a profession that suits my personal ambitions and would allow me to directly influence people’s lives in a positive manner. I strongly believe that occupation is an important determinant of health and well-being because it gives people meaning and a sense of worth and dignity. Furthermore, I believe that people are experts regarding their own occupations and therefore, should always be a part of the therapeutic process. Each individual is unique and their values and beliefs should always be respected and taken into account when developing and implementing an intervention plan.
Considering our aging population, the growing concern for mental health, and the increasing demand for services, I see OT as an emerging and vital profession in health care. My short-term goal is to obtain a position that will allow me to utilize my expertise to better the lives of others, while continuing to develop my clinical expertise as a new professional. Since I have a strong interest in the occupational needs of individuals with mental health issues, especially those who are living in the community, my long-term goal is to find a position within that particular area. I firmly believe that my attributes make me well-suited for a career in occupational therapy and I look forward to furthering my knoweldge and professional skills in a field that I am proud to be a part of.