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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Hill Day from Far Away – OT Advocacy at Home

As you might have heard, AOTA Hill Day 2015 is approaching quickly and OT/A students and practitioners from across the country will be headed to Washington, D.C. for a day of advocacy and action!

If you can’t get to the capital, there are still a ton of ways you can be involved in the action! I believe that legislative advocacy is an important part of professional development, because the way you practice is ultimately determined by state and federal laws and policies. OT/As are in the best position to bring issues to the forefront, especially because they are dealing with these issues in practice every day.

This interactive infographic includes links to websites and resources you can use to start planning for Hill Day even if you’re far away! However you decide to participate, be sure to share your ideas on Facebook and Twitter using #OTHillDay!

Click on the image to access the links!

Hill Day at Home


Check out these links for more info about how to prepare for Hill Day!

  • Part 1 and Part 2 of my Hill Day 2014 experiences
  • Tips on polishing up your OT elevator speech for meetings with representatives and political figures

OT Resources for Students & Professionals: An Interactive Infographic!

OT Resources Header

Are you an OT student or practitioner looking to improve your practice, increase your success, and give back to the profession of occupational therapy?

If so, check out my new interactive OT Resources infographic! In it, you’ll find information about:

  • OT scholarships
  • Research and grant writing
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Getting involved with policy, legislation, and advocacy
  • Improving your practice skills
  • Student leadership opportunities
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Advanced certifications
  • Understanding OT’s scope of practice

…and much, much more! So click on the image or the Resources tab above and check it out, and please share with your peers, coworkers, and friends in OT!

VideOT: Voting in the 2015 AOTA Elections

Although it may be a little late in the game for this post, I wanted to help spread the word and encourage everyone out there to vote in the 2015 AOTA elections! The deadline to vote is February 25, 2015, so don’t let it pass you by!

However you may feel about the different issues facing the profession, one thing is certain – your vote is your voice, and it’s important to be heard by the profession’s future leaders! Taking the time to learn about the candidates’ positions and plans for the profession is crucial because the decisions we make today may impact our profession for years to come.

In her most recent Rehab Potential video, blogger Sarah Lyon at OT Potential describes just how quick, simple, and important it is to vote and “help our [clients] by strengthening our national organization”! In less than two minutes, she eases potential fears about tackling a lengthy ballot, demonstrates some pretty legit networking skills, and directs you to the informative interviews she did with current candidates. And before you say “Oh no, all of this voting stuff will just take too much time…,” she also notes that it took her less than 1.5 minutes to vote. Everybody’s got time for that!

Sarah also did a great job of interviewing candidates from two of the key races (Director to the Board of Directors and Assembly of Student Delegates) and outlining their positions on various issues in very brief, easily digestible blog posts. Although the candidate blurbs available on the AOTA website are also helpful, I feel like her interviews provide more information about topics the candidates weren’t able to fit into such brief statements. You can check out her interviews and the candidates HERE!

Sarah is similar to me in that we both started blogging because the information available online about occupational therapy was very limited, and we apparently wanted to change that! I’ve been reading her blog for a while, and she is definitely somebody who’s knowledgeable and passionate about our profession. One of my goals for this year was to interview some occupational therapists, and reading her posts is giving me the encouragement I need to overcome my nerves and just reach out! She also has several other great posts about being a “mentorable” practitioner and ways to get inspired about OT that you should also check out – AFTER you’ve finished voting, of course! 😀

Breaking the Cycle: Occupational Therapy’s Inclusion in SAMHSA Mental Health Legislation

Back in November, I wrote about occupational therapy’s role in mental health, specifically the profession’s advocacy for occupational therapy’s inclusion in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) legislation that will create Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC).

On February 2nd, SAMHSA released their draft criteria (which you can read here) and occupational therapy is one of the professions that have been identified as potential CBHC providers! Although the document is just a draft, which means that we aren’t officially in the door, it’s still an important stride being made for the profession and for the clients who OTs have the potential to help in the future.

Occupational therapy actually has its origins in mental health, beginning with the moral treatment movement in the early 1800s and continuing throughout World War I, when “reconstruction aides” used crafts, functional activities, and their understanding of the human desire to live a productive, meaningful life to help returning soldiers cope with their physical and psychological injuries (AJOT, 2011). Unfortunately, in recent years occupational therapy has lost its footing in the realm of mental health due to political and legislative actions, professional identity shifts, poor professional advocacy, and other factors. This has led to a sort of vicious cycle of OT’s exclusion from the arena of mental health, which I’ve illustrated in the graphic below:

OT in Mental Health Cycle Graphic

Negative outcomes of this cycle include:

  • Decreased access to qualified mental health service providers by those who need services
  • Healthcare teams that are missing a valuable occupational therapist perspective on client treatment and recovery
  • Fewer opportunities for assessing or developing intervention and treatment methods that may be effective with clients with mental health concerns

However, with occupational therapy’s inclusion in SAMHSA’s CBHC draft comes a chance to break the cycle and make it known that occupational therapists bring valuable tools, insight, and clinical expertise to the field of mental health. In the same article I cited previously (available in full to AOTA members), the author offers several practical solutions to help remedy the current shortage of occupational therapists practicing in mental health, including increased professional advocacy at the state and local levels for the effectiveness of OT in mental health and high-quality research to support this conclusion.

I think that occupational therapy has a bright future in mental health, and I am hopeful that the next generation of therapists will be better-prepared, more confident, and capable of taking on the many challenges presented by working with people living with mental health concerns. We’re now one step closer to breaking the cycle, and I’m excited to see what happens when we reestablish our role as qualified mental health professionals!


If you’re interested in learning more about occupational therapy’s role in mental health, check out these articles describing how the unique skills of OTs have made a difference in the lives of people with mental health concerns, including children, veterans, and families.

Military Service Members and Veterans: Occupational therapy interventions help veterans living with PTSD re-establish routines, learn how to cope with their symptoms, and successfully rejoin their communities.

Children & Adolescents: The community-based OT that the high school student in this article is seeing is helping him learn independent living skills that will help him become less dependent on his family members and likely ease the caregiver burden his mom reports experiencing.

Professional Opportunities for OT in Mental Health: AOTA President Ginny Stoffel authored a useful article that reviews the multiple opportunities for occupational therapy in mental health, including having OTs be members of primary care and “integrated treatment” teams and the important role OTs can play in the recovery of clients with mental health concerns.

Special Issue: Effectiveness of Occupational Therapy Services in Mental Health Practice. Am J Occup Ther 2011;65(3):235-237. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2011.001339.

Using Your Occupational Therapy “Elevator Speech” to Effectively ELEVATE Understanding of the Profession!

Note: Be ready to give a quality occupational therapy elevator speech during any upcoming OT school interviews you have! It’s a common question, and one you should definitely be prepared to answer!

This was my first try at writing down my OT elevator speech from my first day of OT school! I just hope it sounds better than it looks here!
This was my first try at writing down my OT elevator speech on my first day of OT school! I just hope it sounds better than it looks here…


Whether you like it or not, occupational therapy is a profession that currently – and I hope to be one of the profession’s movers and shakers that will change this in a few years!! – requires some sort of explanation to most laypersons because they don’t actually know what it is. This presents a challenge for multiple reasons:

  • You begin to fear attending social events because inevitably you’ll have to explain just what exactly it is that you’re in school for
  • You’re tired of virtually every person to whom you mention the term “occupational therapy” just nodding and pretending they’ve heard of it
  • Everyone thinks you either just help kids with their handwriting or just provide reachers to elderly people

On the very first day of OT school, we had to write a one minute “elevator speech” to describe our profession to a person we might encounter in passing. It seems like a simple enough exercise, but trying to cram all of the important, wonderful, and relevant things about occupational therapy into a one-minute blurb is almost impossible – just try it!

It was a difficult exercise, and after we shared some of our speeches with the class things got even more confusing. Should you mention OT’s role in mental health? What about the work occupational therapists do in specialty areas like hand therapy? How does one explain that it’s not “just like PT, but for your upper body?”

Whether I’ve been at more formal events like Hill Day or casual family get-togethers, I’ve been asked to explain just what it is that I’m going to do when I get out of school. And the only thing that remains the same each time I’m asked is that the answer I give is different! Having a basic elevator speech prepared is a great idea because not only can you provide a quick response in a situation where you only have a short time to educate somebody about what you do, but it is also a great way to elevate a listener’s understanding of the profession!

(Hence the term ELEVATOR speech! Not really. But that is genius, right? :D)

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VideOT: The Many Faces of Occupational Therapists

This VideOT pick is another awesome creation by The University of British Columbia’s Master of Occupational Therapy program. In the video, UBC’s MOT class of 2014 “takes you on a tour of six common health care facilities to illustrate what OTs do.”

I love this video because it’s a short, sweet way to explain to people who are unfamiliar with the profession the wide range of places occupational therapists work and the multiple populations they serve. The video includes a wide range of clients, from a premature infant in a hospital NICU to an elderly man living in a long-term care facility. In the video, the narrators give a brief description of where each OT works, the services they provide for the client, and WHY these services are important. Having all three components in the video is crucial because it lets viewers know not only where OTs can work, but also the kinds of services they provide and the reasons why the OT’s services matter. I think it does a great job of demonstrating OT’s distinct value as a profession that helps people of all ages and stages engage in the occupations that are most important and meaningful to them.

The video also shows the importance of professional collaboration in at least one situation. In the segment about the girl who is having difficulty paying attention in school, the OT is shown communicating with the child’s teacher to make changes and adaptations for her continued success in the classroom. This demonstrates another important aspect of an OT’s job – working with a client’s family, teachers, and employers to help them live life more successfully.

I’m definitely adding a link to this video to my “About Occupational Therapy” page, and I encourage you to share it with others as well!