A few days ago, I had the opportunity to talk to someone who was interested in having me come to give a talk to a group he attended. To begin with it sounded wonderful that there was a group interested in hearing about occupational therapy and then a statement caused a problem. I would like to share about this comment in order to clarify exactly what is meant by “meeting the needs of those interested in learning about occupational therapy”.
The Request Made:
The person made a request that I make the group feel good by letting them know that occupational therapy began in Israel. In his opinion, Israel was the forerunner to OT. He was very insistent that the talk has to make the group feel proud about being Israelis.
I would like to respond to this request on three levels. This will include what is meant by meeting the needs of those interested in learning about occupational therapy, a little about the time frame of when occupational therapy became recognized as a profession and something about the philosophy behind occupational therapy. Let us begin with the second idea first, then we will go to the third and we will end with the first idea, which was what he was most concerned about.
- The time frame of Occupational Therapy being recognized as a profession:The history of occupational therapy is fascinating and we will touch on a few ideas shortly. However, if we look at just a few facts in terms of time frame, an important detail will emerge. Occupational therapy became formally recognized as a profession in 1917 in the United States of America or the USA. This was during the time of WWI. The state of Israel as it is known on a secular level came into being post WWII. That means that for the secular Jew living in Israel who has a strong Zionistic attitude and likes to believe that everything began in Israel, just based on time frame, the request can not be. The correct fact is that the first course in occupational therapy was set up in Israel in 1964.
- A little background to the philosophy of occupational therapy:If we look at the philosophy of occupational therapy, it is true to say that the beginnings of the ideas of occupational therapy can be traced back to the Bible. However, if we are to find a correlation between occupational therapy and the Bible, we will have to look at the Torah, which means to consider Israel not as a secular state but in terms of the history of the world as described in the Bible, meaning in the Torah. This means the focus of the request will differ. Instead of wanting to find origins in the country that the secular Jew is proud of, we have to acknowledge that the Land of Israel has an important connection to the Jewish people as being the leaders in how to fulfill our role as human beings in this world according to the will of the creator of the world, the One who gave Israel to the Jewish people. That means that the focus of the land of Israel and the origin of occupational therapy both have to differ. In order to do so, we can no longer have a talk from a secular perspective but are forced to bring in a major factor which is G-d, the Creator of the Universe and all that is.
The truth is that occupational therapy acknowledges the importance of looking at the spiritual dimension as part of ensuring health and well being. We see this in a few models one of them being the Canadian Model of Occupational Therapy. The topic of occupational therapy and spirituality we will leave for now and pick up in another post, and yes, in a book that is in process.
- Finally, what does meeting the needs of someone interested in learning about occupational therapy mean?
When I mention that I am happy to listen to the needs of a group in formulating the talk to be offered about occupational therapy, I do not mean to alter truth or facts. Clearly, by looking at the basic time line of the start of occupational therapy as a profession, the state of Israel were not the forerunners, the Americans were. I do not alter fact in my talks. There is enough that is wonderful and exciting that I do not need to enter into fantasy.
What I am happy to listen to is e.g. what is the age group I will be listening to. If the age group is a group of high school students then the talk will cater to ideas of OT as a career. If their need is to hear how OT can help them as teenagers working towards being successful in their transition to young adults then that is a realistic need and goal that can and will be addressed. Similarly, if the group consists of new mothers who are all young adults, then their needs would relate more to their role of mother in the phase of the life cycle of a young adult as opposed to an older woman who is finally blessed with children. As we can see, their needs are specific and realistic. Their needs also fit into what an OT can address and answer to.
For those who have the need to explore fantasy, yes we can do an exercise of creative thinking and show how OT can help them to expand their thinking through accessing and maximizing their imagination. However, I would like to draw a distinction here, although there is benefit to working with the imagination, I can not and will not alter the history of occupational therapy to suit the imagination or fantasy of someone who will only invite me to speak if I meet a false need. To a group wanting information that differs from fact, my answer is find another speaker. To a group who is interested in learning about the real profession of occupational therapy, yes I am happy to give a talk. I offer talks in person or online. If you would like to book a talk, please contact me via my contact page.