16 Ways to Motivate OT Clients to Participate

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During my observations and on my OT fieldworks, there are always clients who don’t want to do therapy. They come in all shapes, sizes, and ages, and trying to get them to participate in treatment can be like pulling teeth. It seems like no matter what you say or what you do, they are determined to remain in bed or in their rooms.


Earlier this summer I was working with a 93 year old woman in a SNF. She had a severe cough that racked her body as she lay in her hospital bed, complaining of various aches and pains. When I first asked if she would come to the therapy gym for an occupational therapy session “to build up her strength,” she refused to get out of bed and said repeatedly that she didn’t feel well. After a few minutes of my coaxing and her refusal, I was going to just give up. But then, in an effort to simply get her talking (and with the hopes of leading the conversation in a therapy-related direction) I started asking her questions about what she did for a living. It turns out that she had been a hairdresser for over half of her life, and that she spent almost all of those years standing on her feet and doing hair! Using this new knowledge of a valued occupation as motivation, I asked her if she could stand up for me so we could get to her wheelchair and visit the beauty shop that was just around the corner in the SNF. She agreed, and off we went!


During our nearly hour-long session, I also learned that she loved gardening and being outside and that she had been raised on a farm. As I wheeled her outside in the sunshine, she pointed out the different types of plants growing around the building, and smiled as she told me about her childhood spent on her family farm. From the minute I helped her into the chair to the minute we got back in bed, she didn’t cough once. (For the record, it wasn’t just a leisurely stroll; she had a wheelchair positioning goal!)


This encounter was a lesson in the motivating power of occupation and how introducing meaning into a treatment can take an unsuccessful session in a totally different direction. And while many of the strategies below have been helpful to me as I’ve worked with clients of varying ages and in various settings, it’s important to note that none of them will work if you haven’t laid a good foundation for treatment. Specifically, if you are working toward goals that are not meaningful, relevant, or achievable, you’ll just be wasting your time and theirs.


Remember that occupation = motivation. Your goals for a client should always be client-centered and occupation-focused. If you have a hard time getting clients to participate in your treatment sessions, take a look at your goals or intervention approach and revise to ensure that each one focuses on enabling a client to maximize participation in or return to meaningful occupation and incorporates occupation.


Once you’ve engaged in a process of self-reflection related to your goals and intervention approach, use the tips below to help motivate those “difficult” clients!  Continue reading


Catching Up

Hello out there! It’s been over a month since I last posted, and since then I have:

  • Graduated from OT school
  • Started my final Level II fieldwork at a local continuing care retirement community (CCRC)
  • Applied to the AOTA Emerging Leaders Development Program
  • Been spending as much time as possible with friends and family

…all of which explain my internet absence! (Not that anyone noticed I was gone, I just like to explain giant gaps between posts, lol) Since I’m working full time on a variety of projects this summer, I’ll likely be posting a lot less often, but I’ll do my best to inform the interwebs about my ongoing experience as I transition from OT student to new grad and beyond!


In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to over the past month! (Note: Only half of it actually has anything to do with OT).


Graduating from OT School

On Saturday, April 30, I was officially done with all of the academic requirements for my OT program and I became a near-graduate of the UNC Chapel Hill Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program’s Class of 2016! It was such an amazing experience to be a part of, especially because every year the OT program students plan our own private graduation ceremony and celebration that is separate from the University’s events (because our program isn’t actually over until August, after our final Level II fieldwork, we aren’t technically allowed to walk with the rest of the University’s students in May). My classmates did an amazing job of designing a program that celebrated each and every one of our classmates and allowing us all to come together with our instructors, friends, and family members to celebrate this amazing achievement.


Friends and Family Galore!

I love blogging, but I love my friends and family much, much more! For my graduation, my uncle from California flew out to surprise me at the ceremony – no joke, I turned around and saw him walking up and I CRIED. It was amazing! After graduation, I was able to spend a few days hanging out with him and my mom and grandparents, which made for an awesome start to the week I had off between graduation and fieldwork.


Right after my uncle left, one of my best friends came down from New Jersey to visit me. We entered a lip sync contest at a local bar and KILLED IT, so we won a free $100 bar tab! We performed to “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé and Jay-Z, and it was amazing! We also took a trip to the nearby Botanical Garden, where we saw tons of wildlife and cool carnivorous plants!


After Shaylin left, my OTHER best friend Laura flew in from Missouri to prepare for her upcoming wedding. She’s getting married in Yellowstone National Park (I KNOW, RIGHT?!?) this summer, and I’m so honored to be her maid of honor! It’ll be the furthest west I’ve ever been, and I can’t wait to make the trip! We also had her bridal shower and bachelorette while she was home, and that was a ton of fun!


Starting my Final Fieldwork

After taking a way-too-short week off to hang out with friends and family and decompress from what was actually a really stressful last semester, I started my final fieldwork placement at a local CCRC. It’s a very unique place, and I’ve been working with older adults with a variety of conditions and abilities. I’m learning a ton, and it’s been a truly challenging experience for myself as a (budding) clinician and fieldwork student. More to come on my experience later this summer!



As you can see, I’ve been keeping pretty busy outside the blogosphere! However, I plan to come back soon with more posts and ideas, so check back soon for updates!

The 8 People You Meet in OT School


The 8 People You Meet in OT School

After two years of being in class with the same 21 people every day, I think I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on my classmates’ strengths, weaknesses, and personalities. Some are more laid-back, and some are more high-strung. Some try to find the positive in every situation, and others have a more pessimistic point of view, but everybody excels in different ways and has something unique to offer!


Anyone who’s been in OT school before can probably tell you about the classic personality types you’ll encounter as an OT student, but if you don’t have anybody to ask, read on to find out what you have to look forward to!

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By OT’s, For OT’s: A Guide to Inventions by Occupational Therapists

By OT's, For OT's- OT Invention Guide

Happy OT Month 2016! Four years after initially learning about OT, three years after going through the wildly difficult OT school application process, two years after starting OT school, and just FIVE MONTHS before the end of my time as an OT student, I’m still as passionate about this profession as ever!

Although of course I celebrate OT all day every day, this month is a great time to advocate for OT, educate others about the profession, and celebrate the achievements of OT students, practitioners, educators, and supporters! And since I love to celebrate, for OT Month 2016 I’ve created a guide to products, publications, and projects created by OT practitioners from around the world!

Read on to learn more about products created by and for OT and OTA students and practitioners across practice areas!

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Setting the PACE: An OT Fieldwork with Older Adults

Setting the Pace

Today was my last first day of OT FWI EVER!!! That’s super exciting, because it means I’m one fieldwork closer to living the dream as an OTR!

My last week-long Fieldwork I experience is at a local Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) facility, and I absolutely LOVE it! The interdisciplinary teamwork, long-term relationships with clients, family involvement, and beautiful facility (with TONS of financial and other resources) are all factors I’m looking for in a potential workplace, so my FWI placement is a great fit. This was my first clinical experience that was focused exclusively on practice with older adults, and although I am on a federal training grant that will require me to work mostly in pediatrics for at least four years, I can definitely see myself working with older adults sometime in the future.

As of October 2015, there were 116 PACE programs in 32 states. Most are concentrated on the East coast, with very few existing in the Midwest and more rural states west of the Mississippi. (Click here to see a map and find the PACE program closest to you!) The goal of PACE programs is to provide comprehensive, interdisciplinary care to older adults to help them continue living safely in the community. The National PACE Association also asserts that “The PACE Model of Care is centered on the belief that it is better for the well-being of seniors with chronic care needs and their families to be served in the community whenever possible” (National PACE Association, 2016).

PACE participants receive primary and nursing care, skilled therapy, medical equipment, transportation, and many other services that are often very costly or unavailable to older adults who are paying for them out-of-pocket or through Medicare or Medicaid fee-for-service plans. According to a federal website, “The PACE model of care is established as a provider in the Medicare program and as enables states to provide PACE services to Medicaid beneficiaries as state option” (Medicaid.gov).

I’m excited to get a chance to work with people in one of my favorite populations, and I’m looking forward to spending a week here. Read on to get the rundown of my first fast-paced day at a local PACE program!

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Celebrating a Love as Big as My Hair!

Hello out there! Just a note, this post is totally unrelated to OT, except for the fact that doing my hair is one of my most and least favorite ADLs.

In case you didn’t know, I’m getting married! And because I’m a poor grad student who doesn’t have a ton of money to spare (See: All my blog posts about saving money, lol), I’m trying to win as many things as possible for our upcoming wedding! So if you’re a fan of my blog or just want to help a poor grad student out, click over to the Facebook contest I’m in, like our photo, and help me win a free bridal hairstyling appointment! 🙂

Vote for our photo here!

Many thanks, and I’ll be posting more relevant content soon!


Funding Your OT Education, Part III: During OT School

This post is Part III of a four-part series to help occupational therapy students and practitioners find ways to fund their OT education.

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This post is full of tips, advice, and resources for current OT students who are looking to save money as they pursue their degrees! In case you missed them, you can read the first two parts of my Funding Your OT Education series for advice about how to find funding for OT school and what you can do before starting OT school to make the most of your money.

Read on to learn about ways you can save as an OT student!
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