As I was returning home from our on-site module, I reflected on what an extraordinary experience it was being in the aura of these self-directed and motivated individuals. How is it that we all gathered here? What brought us to this institution of higher learning? Exploring different reasons brought me to ponder why am I here, and how did I get here. Although this sounds like existentialism, there is a component of this philosophy in my professional journey. “American existentialists focus on human potential and the quest for personal meaning…If we relate this to the field of education, examining life through authentic thinking involves students in genuine learning experiences (Cohen & Atkin, 1999, para 10). Much of the professional development literature points to self-reflection and critical examination as effective methods of practice improvement (Camin, 2008).
Reflecting on my occupational therapy education, an analogy comes to mind, “all too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants” (Gardner, 1981, p. 21). I want to expound on the evolution of my occupational therapy philosophy. I attended Tufts University Boston School of Occupational Therapy in 1976 to 1978. As Cole wrote, the 1970's were the decade of frames of reference (Cole & Tufano, 2008). My professors, Margot Howe, Ed.D., OTR and Anne K. Briggs, M.S., OTR utilized the ecological systems model as a basis for curriculum design (Howe & Briggs, 1982). Within this conceptual model,
The goal of the occupational therapist is to enhance individuals' ability to cope with the environment, to adapt to it, to change it, and to master whatever range of life-tasks and activities that will enable clients to accomplish their personal goals in the relationship to
themselves and to the surrounding systems—that is, family, workplace, community. (p. 322).
The evaluative process includes "the degree of function or dysfunction in the individual's physical, psychological, and social interactions with the environment" (Howe & Briggs, 1982, p. 322). This curriculum also emphasized the concept of clinical reasoning, which includes clinical judgment, problem-solving, decision making, and thinking strategies (Fleming, 1991, p. 989).
The core concepts, the hallmark of my occupational therapy education, in which I embrace as an occupational therapist, includes the biopsychosocial approach, therapeutic use of self, and the context of the client's occupation in all aspects of the care continuum. My position in current practice was formulated by excellent curriculum and training in the 1970's. This foundational model prepared me for practice throughout the years.
Integrating the conceptual theories into actual workplace practice proved challenging for me. As a new graduate, navigating the new culture was stressful. Developing interpersonal skills, professional relationships, and effective communication strategies was my...