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Increasing Diversity in Occupational Therapy: The Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD)

COTAD

In case you weren’t aware, the profession of occupational therapy is many things – rewarding, exciting, and fast-growing, for example. However, diverse is generally something this profession is not – although efforts are being made to change this. According to AOTA, the profession looked like this in 2013-141:

Race and Ethnicity Percentage of Workforce
White, Hispanic & non-Hispanic 82%
Black, Hispanic & non-Hispanic 4%
Asian, Hispanic & non-Hispanic 6%
Native & Pacific Islanders, Hispanic & non-Hispanic <1%
Other- Hispanic & non-Hispanic 7%

The makeup of OT/A academic programs was similarly lacking in diversity2:

  • Programs offering doctoral degree level programs—88.6% Caucasian
  • Programs offering master’s degree level programs—72.8% Caucasian
  • Programs for OT assistants—74.6% Caucasian

In the AOTA’s Advisory Opinion on Cultural Competency and Ethical Practice, they state that “cultural competence is key to effective therapeutic interactions and outcomes,” and I vehemently agree. However, as of 2006, over 72% of students in OT and OTA programs and nearly 90% of students in OTD programs in the United States were Caucasian. These disappointing data (although they are outdated) indicate that students and professionals in our field may not represent a sufficiently broad range of experiences, perspectives and backgrounds that are vital for successful therapist-client relationships and meaningful professional development. Increased diversity within the profession means that occupational therapy will be improved for both clients and practitioners, and the addition of more socioculturally diverse professionals to the workforce will result in more effective and culturally appropriate client care as well as enriched professional exchanges.

So why does diversity matter? Continue reading

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