A comparatively old practice, occupational therapy roots way back into the B. C. era; however, even in the modern epoch, there are still questions to be answered in the given field, theories to be proven and approaches to be practiced. Demanding specific qualities and even a specific temper, the profession of an occupational therapist poses a number of challenges for the people who decided to help the mentally impaired to adapt to the existing social norms and integrate into the society more or less successfully (Yuen & D’Amico, 1998).
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It is hard to pinpoint the exact definition of an occupational therapist, since the job of the latter involves a lot a issues; however, when putting all the qualities of an occupational therapist together, one can come up with a definition of occupational therapist professionalism.
According to the existing definition, occupational therapy professionalism is “an extensive background knowledge of neuromuscular, sensorimotor and psychological variables affecting performance, as well as the practical skills to analyse and breakdown task performance” (Daniel & Froude, 1998, 48).
However, there are other ways to define occupational therapy professionalism. As Porter, Watson and Carpa specify, occupational therapy professionalism presupposes helping individuals “to move from dependence to independence, maximizing personal productivity, well being and quality of life” (Porter, Watson & Carpa, 1998, 65).
Therefore, it can be considered that a true occupational therapist must have such qualities as the ability to listen to his/her patients, analyze each case individually, figure out what specific treatment the patient needs and come up with a unique intervention plan (Craik et al., 2010).
Another important issue which is worth paying attention to when speaking of the occupational therapist services is their quality. Defining the quality of occupational therapy services is not easy, since the latter involves an individual approach to every single patient and, therefore, requires a number of skills which are evaluated on their own merits (Liedberg, Bjork & Hensing, 2010).
However, there are still a number of general guidelines which help to draw the line between good and excellent quality of occupational therapy services. To start with, the traditional definition of the qualities of services as relevant to the discipline of occupational therapy offered by Halkett, Ciccarelli, Keesing, and Aorun puts the emphasis on the way in which the patients integrate into the society after the intervention and presuppose “improving patient function, comfort, occupational performance and quality of life” (Halkett, Ciccarelli, Keesing, & Aorun, 2010, 308).
In contrast to the above-mentioned definition, which puts the emphasis on the final result, the definition of the services quality for the discipline of occupational therapy offered by Parnell and Wilding focuses on the process, or, to be more exact, on the correct choice of the tools which will help to provide an efficient intervention and “assist them in improving the health, wellbeing and quality of experience of individuals, families, communities and population” (Parnell & Wilding, 2010, 346).
Hence, it can be considered that the true definition for the quality of the occupational therapy as a discipline lies between the two viewpoints and involves both a careful choice of the intervention and producing the desired results in the future (Fletcher, 2000).
Like any other field, occupational therapy does not have its rules and standards coming out of nowhere – there are specific industries and organizations which prescribe certain measures for occupational therapists to comply with. One of the most influential Australian organizations that set the rules for occupational therapy practices is the Western Australian Occupational Therapists Association (Iwama, 2012).
It is necessary to mention that the Western Australian Occupational Therapists Association is still in the process of changing. In order to reestablish the key principles of the organization and make the rules more flexible, adjusting them to the newly obtained knowledge, the organization is currently undergoing a series of changes which are bound to make the future standards for occupational therapy even stricter:
At present, palliative care does not have a clear presence in the professional profile of the Western Australian Occupational Therapists’ Association, and there is no special interest group or strategy for the promotion of occupational therapists working in palliative care. (Halkett, Ciccarelli, Keesing, & Aorun, 2010, 307)
However, the existing gaps in the rules and regulations of the Western Australian Occupational Therapists Association are currently being fixed. According to the reports provided by Bennett et al., the premises of a specific evidence-based practice are being established to improve the existing guidelines: “Evidence-based practice (EBP) is an approach to decision-making that has permeated all aspects of healthcare” (Bennett et al., 2003, 2).
However, offering the standards for occupational therapists to follow is not enough. To make sure that only the top-notch services are delivered to the patients and everything possible is done to help them return to their jobs and social circles, the efficacy of the adopted interventions is to be checked, which means that certain organizations must supervise the work of the occupational therapists on a regular basis.
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As it has been mentioned above, the Western Australian Occupational Therapists Association is the key body which not only sets the rules for the occupational therapy discipline, but also offers the supervision of the current occupational therapy practices, making sure that all the rules and regulations concerning occupational therapy are followed and complied with (Brown, 2010).
The process of monitoring is rather complicated. Involving several stages, it begins with the guidelines for training future occupational therapists and ends with the basic ethical principles that an occupational therapist must follow. There are, however, several key stages which can be considered the major points to pay special attention to.
According to OT Australia WA, there are six domains which the existing guidelines embrace, i.e., the education of occupational therapists, the supervision of the occupational therapists’ work, the establishment of the role of an occupational therapist, the code of conduct accepted in occupational therapy, the employment guidelines which are practiced in occupational therapy, and the occupational therapy ethics (OT Australia WA, 2005).
With the help of the above-mentioned elements, the Australian Occupational Therapists Association manages to control the activities of the occupational therapists within the state.
Even though occupational therapy has been practiced since the B.C. era, the current practices and rules are imperfect. Demanding a considerable amount of skills form the specialists in the given field and being currently in the stage of development, occupational therapy offers a lot of challenges to face, including the reconsideration of the existing norms and regulations, as well as the standards for occupational therapists’ work.
However, once due care and effort is applied, occupational therapy will become an even better established discipline with sufficient theoretical background and efficient rules.
Bennett, S. et al. (2003). Perceptions of evidence-based practice: a survey of Australian occupational therapists. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 50(1), 13-22.
Brown, T. (2010). Impact factor and the Australian Occupational Therapy Journal: a notable achievement. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 57(5), 283.
Craik, C. et al. (2010). A qualitative study of service user experiences of occupation in forensic mental health. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 57(5), 339-344.
Daniel, M. E., & Froude, E. H. (1998). Reliability of occupational therapist and teacher evaluations of the handwriting quality of grade 5 and 6 primary school children. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 45(2), 48-58.
Fletcher, M. (2000). The quality of Australian health care: Current issues and future directions. Web.
Halkett, G. K. B., Ciccarelli, M., Keesing, S., & Aorun, S. (2010). Occupational therapy in palliative care: Is it under-utilised in Western Australia? Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 57(5), 301-309.
Iwama, M. (2012). Seeking relevance to diversity: Australian occupational therapy’s promise. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 59(2), 107.
Liedberg, G. M., Bjork, M., & Hensing, G. (2010). Occupational therapists’ perceptions of gender – a focus group study. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 57(5), 331-338.
OT Australia WA (2005). Occupational therapy assistants: Policy statements and guidelines. Web.
Parnell, T. & Wilding, C. (2010). Where can an occupation-focused philosophy take occupational therapy? Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 57(5), 345-348.
Porter, J., Watson, G., & Carpa, S. (1998). Food skills assessment tools for people with a mental illness. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 45(2), 65-71.
Yuen, H. K., & D’Amico, M. (1998). Improved feeding ability in adults with acquired brain damage: Two case studies. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 45(2), 43-47.