Role Identification and Independece Achieved by Occupational Therapy

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Although occupation and occupational therapy were harshly questioned when it was first established, the occupation has grown to be an incredibly important aspect of occupational therapy. The main form of practice for occupational therapy is still through occupation-centered treatment because it has shown to be incredibly successful – patients remain engaged as they participate in activities that they love or need (Jackson, 1998). Occupations allow patients to keep a sense of autonomy and independence as they remain able to engage in activities that they love and cherish, which is key in encouraging health and exercising. By being able to partake in such activities, patients realize that they are able to accomplish complex tasks and that they can still keep a similar lifestyle with some tweaks.

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Certain occupations can be focused solely on bringing joy and independence to the patient, but others can improve physical function and encourage exercising. Participation in occupations has proven countless times that it allows for life satisfaction and the development, or maintenance, of skills and health. The new sense of accomplishment and joy achieved through occupation generally motivates a patient to fight through and improve their condition. The challenges offered by occupations in occupational therapy can focus on the physical, psychological, cognitive, and many more aspects of the patient, thus allowing for a global impact. By proving to patients that they can enjoy life with a few adaptations, occupation greatly improves patients’ skills, abilities, confidence, happiness, and outlook on life.

One of Sandy’s occupations was mall shopping, which became the center of an outing to build her confidence and independence. By using an activity that she was fond of, occupation therapy allowed Sandy to feel capable of doing activities she previously engaged in. The therapist gave her a very specific task – finding a tablecloth – so that Sandy could focus on accomplishing tasks in a real-life setting: going to numerous stores, talking to vendors, thinking about color schemes, and remembering key dates. The aforementioned tasks helped Sandy realize that she was independent and could still go through the mall, a beloved activity, and successfully shop.

Sandy had previously felt hopeless and refused to engage in certain activities, such as bowling, but seeing her skills at work and regaining her independence through the use of occupation motivated her. After being discharged from the University Rehabilitation Center, she took up bowling again, cooked, hosted bridge parties, returned to the mall, and spent time with friends – “Sandy retired from work; solidified her relationship with Lisa; took bowling lessons from a pro and entered tournaments; hosted bridge parties for which she prepared food and set the bridge table; and spent time with her friends at the mall, watching movies and attending special brunches” (Jackson, 468). Her latter occupations and lifestyle indicate that the occupation treatments successfully helped Sandy and gave her the assurance, attitude, and drive she needed. Simple tasks through occupation gave Sandy confidence in her independence, which lead her to participate in more activities. Partaking in an activity that she had previously engaged in and was a part of her life showed her that she could keep a similar lifestyle with some adaptations without having to give up what she loved. Independence emerged and was promoted through occupation as the therapist proved to Sandy that she was well capable of engaging in everyday activities and valued occupations.

Occupations are shaped and developed based on one’s sense of self; people do what they want and love because it is who they are. Activities that numerous people engage in may be similar, but the details or smaller tasks differ based on the person’s life, preferences, and self-actualization. Disabilities change a person’s body and mind, which can lead to the need for adaptations for self-actualization.

The shopping spree was an activity that Sandy was very used to partaking in but going to the mall after her double stroke was a completely different experience as she learned to cultivate her own new routines. Since Sandy had struggled with her relationship – she did not remember ending her previous relationship and did not remember her new girlfriend –, her memory, and her independence, the shopping spree allowed her to focus on remembering dates and the decorations in her home, come to terms with her new relationship, and prove to herself that she was capable of shopping at the mall. Sandy learned to adapt to a new environment and learn adaptations needed for self-actualization regarding her new life, her relationship, her motherhood, her sexual identity, and her occupations. By prompting past experiences, feelings, and ideas, occupational therapy gave Sandy hopes and motivation for the future that she had previously lost.

Sandy developed adaptations necessary for self-actualizations as she learned how to go on a shopping spree and later learned how to bowl and do numerous activities she had previously enjoyed doing. By learning how to do what she once loved through different adaptations for her disability, she regained a sense of self-actualization, fulfillment, and joy.

One of the biggest changes in Sandy as a result of the planned occupation was her attitude. Prior to treatment, she felt hopeless about her situation, did not imagine a future for herself, refused to partake in activities she loved such as bowling, and repeatedly said she wished she had died. Once she saw how much she could accomplish at the mall, realized how much fun she could have, and felt feelings and memories she previously had, her outlook and motivation completely changed. She had refused to bowl because she felt that she could not enjoy it with adaptations, but after her treatment and confidence-boost, she took lessons and began to bowl again. The change in attitude and motivation alone was incredible.

Her skills also greatly improved, both as a result of treatment and as a result of her attitude change. She originally needed help with daily activities, described as “grooming, dressing, bathing, cooking” (Jackson, 468), but after her treatment, she was able to prepare food and set bridge tables for her parties. The planned occupation itself allowed for her skills to improve in communication by talking to a salesperson, in thinking about colors and decorations as she looked for the perfect tablecloth, and movement through moving in and out of stores. Her memory was also a focus of the occupational therapy since she had to work on remembering her anniversary and relationship.

Her role identification changed and emerged through old memories and feelings as well as through engaging in an activity engrained in her lifestyle. Her roles as a girlfriend and lesbian developed since she was shopping for a tablecloth for a dinner for her girlfriend – this was especially important since Sandy struggled with remembering her new relationship. Her role as a mother to her son peaked through as she remembered her times going through the mall with him or for him. Her roles as a shopper and friend also emerged through memories of going shopping with her friends and spending time in the mall. 

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