Occupational Science & Technology

Occupational Therapy Program Philosophy Statement

Occupations are activities that bring meaning to the daily lives of individuals, families, and communities and enable them to participate in society. All individuals have an innate need and right to engage in meaningful occupations throughout their lives. Occupational therapy enhances participation in healthful, meaningful activities and thereby improves people’s lives across the lifespan.

Occupations occur within diverse social, physical, cultural, personal, temporal, or virtual contexts. There is a dynamic relationship between factors intrinsic to the individual, the context in which the occupation occurs, and the characteristics of the activity (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2011, p. XXX). Occupational participation is affected by environmental, social, developmental, psychological, learning, biological, and many other processes and factors. The occupational performance and the experience of each individual is unique, yet there are also commonalities in responses to interventions by occupational therapy practitioners.

Occupational therapy focuses on individuals’ engagement in meaningful occupations that support their health and quality of life. Occupational therapy practitioners conceptualize occupations as both a means and an end to therapy; that is, there is therapeutic value in occupational engagement as a change agent, and engagement inoccupation is also an ultimate goal of therapy (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2011, p. XXX).

Occupational therapy is based on the belief -- and increasingly, on evidence – that “occupations may be used for health promotion and wellness, remediation or restoration, health maintenance, disease and injury prevention, and compensation or adaptation. The use of occupation to promote individual, community, and population health is the core of occupational therapy practice, education, research, and advocacy” (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2011, p. XXX).

Our fundamental belief is that each individual has the potential to engage in occupations that promote maximum function, adaptation, and quality of life, as well as prevent and mediate dysfunction. Human engagement in occupations is one of the main mechanisms for developing adaptive responses to an ever-changing environment. The environment, with its physical, social, and cultural characteristics, is both responsive to and facilitative of the performance of occupations. Engagement in occupation develops human worth, dignity, quality of life, and purpose across the lifespan. Each individual has the right to pursue a satisfying life and achieve his or her highest level of function and independence. The engagement in meaningful daily occupations and the adaptations used to successfully complete them are key to achieving one’s highest potential.

The education of occupational therapy practitioners at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee embraces occupation, and its requisite performance skills, as the unifying core for the theories which drive clinical practice. Occupation is affected by numerous processes, including behavioral and psychological factors, variations in chosen or required tasks, the physical and social environment, biological and health factors, assistive technology and tools, society, and culture. Graduates of our program learn to identify causal processes which are related to occupational dysfunctions and strategies to overcome these problems. Our graduates are prepared to function as scholarly practitioners with the skills necessary to identify best practices and to make sound clinical decisions in responses to client and public need in the future health care environment. Sound professional clinical reasoning requires identification and integration of best published scientific research with clinical experience and client values. Promoting the development and use of new evidence – that is, scientific research – is a necessary professional responsibility.

An understanding of how adults learn shapes the learning environment for students in the program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Students learn through experiential, hands-on, active learning strategies incorporated into their coursework as well as through traditional reading, discussing, and writing. These activities provide the opportunity to understand, integrate, synthesize, apply the knowledge learned, and assimilate clinical relevance. Activities to make valued contributions to the community are encouraged. Role playing, case studies, and application of the clinical reasoning process reinforce reflection and summation of lessons learned. Students are assessed on how well they integrate novel ideas and insights generated by critical thinking into their existing analytical and interpretative frameworks through projects, reports, examinations, by performance on fieldwork, and ultimately, by their success as occupational therapists.

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2011). The philosophical base of occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65 (6 Suppl.)