Chopped: OT Style!

Chopped OT Style
Do you have what it takes to be the best occupational therapist out there? Find out on this episode of CHOPPED, OT Style!

Today in one of my classes, we did a really fun and thought-provoking activity that was designed to integrate and test our understanding of the material we’ve covered since starting OT school in August. If you’ve ever seen the cooking show Chopped, then you might know what’s coming next. If not, I’ll explain briefly!

On Chopped, several contestants are given a very short amount of time to assemble a tasty, well-plated culinary masterpiece. There are three rounds in the show, and each round the contestants use the contents of a “mystery box” to prepare their dish. Each person has to use all of the ingredients in their dish in some way, and they only have 30 minutes to make it! Each round, the person with the “worst” dish is eliminated, and the others continue on to compete with even crazier materials. It’s a pretty high-intensity show, and the randomness of the mystery box items is super entertaining – in one circus-themed episode, contestants had to cook with hot dogs and cotton candy. No joke. Um, good luck.

Anyway, during class we broke up into small groups and did a similar activity.

Our instructor had five separate types of cards in five categories, which I’ve put into a table below:

Category Examples
  1. Primary Diagnosis
Congestive heart failure, C8 spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy
  1. Occupational Therapy Practice Models
Model of Human Occupation (MOHO), Ecology of Human Performance (EHP)
  1. Age
Young adult (20-35 yrs), Early intervention (0-3 yrs)
  1. Socioeconomic, Contextual and Cultural Factors
Recent immigrant to the U.S. who came to take over family business

Close family member was recently incarcerated

Non-English speaking client

      5. WILD CARD

(Doesn’t necessarily apply to client)


Diagnosed with depression while receiving occupational therapy

She had each group draw one of each of the first four types of card, and then she came by 10 minutes later and gave us a fifth “Wild Card” that represented an important piece of information we learned soon after beginning therapy with the client. In order to effectively complete the assignment, we had to have a good understanding of various health conditions (or how to find reliable information about conditions we were unfamiliar with), the roles and scope of practice for therapists in each practice setting, the various kinds of assessments occupational therapists use, how culture can impact treatment, how a person’s age would change your intervention plan…all stuff we’ve learned in just two short months!

Here is the situation my group was working with during the challenge.
Here is the situation my group was working with during the challenge. L-R: Model, Wild Card, Age, Sociocultural Context, & Primary Diagnosis

During the activity, we had to come up with a creative backstory for our client, decide which assessments would be appropriate to administer for a person in their situation, design a plausible, evidence-based intervention plan, fit our plan into one of the theoretical models of occupation we spent the morning learning about, AND finish by explaining our clinical reasoning and case study in a five minute presentation! It was a lot of fun, but this activity had deeper meanings beyond drawing random cards out of a bag and using them to piece together a treatment plan.

I think this assignment was very valuable not only because it was a tangible representation of just how many complex factors interact to impact a person’s health and occupational functioning, but it was a great exercise in learning to think like a clinician. My group spent the better part of an hour considering which assessments would be best for our client “Jeanine,” how the client’s cultural background, life course and experiences would impact treatment, how her family might be involved in treatment, and which theoretical model of occupation would provide the most appropriate foundation for our occupational therapy intervention. While we were talking, we received our group’s wildcard (alcoholism) and had to regroup and figure out what this new information would mean for our intervention plan and our client – something real clinicians deal with in practice nearly every day! When we finally got everything figured out, we only had five minutes left before it was time to present our case to the class!

This activity was also very useful because it made me think about how important it is for therapists to be able to consider the infinite variety of factors in a client’s life and the transactions that occur between all of them over the course of treatment. In settings like acute rehab, where I’m currently doing my Fieldwork I, therapists may only see their client one or two times before discharge, so it is almost impossible to get this amount of information and take all of it into account. Still, it is important to know about a client’s previous medical history, current goals and desires and cultural behaviors and beliefs to provide the most client-centered and meaningful therapy possible. And in outpatient practices where an occupational therapist may be seeing a child for months or years, it is also vital that he or she is able to continue developing their knowledge of their client and his or her changing body, experiences and physical and environmental contexts so that they can adapt their treatment plan over time.

This activity also highlighted the importance of working effectively with others, being part of a “treatment team” and learning when to ask others for help – all skills that are part of any successful occupational therapist’s practice.

Doing an activity like this was challenging, but I really loved it and I hope that I’ll keep all the things I learned in mind as I get one step closer to being a real occupational therapist every day!

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