I had the privilege of spending the last six weeks on placement at HIV Community Link. This was a unique opportunity because I am studying to be an occupational therapist, and there has never before been an occupational therapist at HIV Community Link. During this time I learned a lot about occupational therapy (OT) in the context of HIV, and I would like to share what I learned.
First, I will answer the burning question on your mind: What is occupational therapy?
“Occupational therapists believe that [activities] describe who you are and how you feel about yourself. If you are unable to do the things you want, or need to do, to live and enjoy your life, your general well-being may be affected” (CAOT, 2015). So occupational therapists look at the things that prevent people from participating in the activities that they need, or want, to do and creatively look for ways to overcome those barriers. These activities include anything you might do in a day, from making a meal, getting to appointments, doing a hobby, volunteering or working. Barriers can include environmental factors, physical limitations, cognitive changes, or mental health conditions.
Occupational therapists use a variety of strategies to overcome barriers which include building new skills, finding different ways to complete a given activity, modifying a person’s surroundings, or providing equipment such as a wheelchair or walker, grab bars for safety, or pill boxes (dossettes) to assist with medication management.
Occupational therapy can provide services at HIV Community Link through meeting with clients to enable participation in valued activities, partnering with community agencies to provide appropriate services, or by developing resources on topics such as stress management, coping, energy conservation, or coping with cognitive changes (CWGHR, 2015).
I would like to thank everyone at HIV Community Link for welcoming me, taking the time to help me discover what occupational therapy can offer at this agency, and supporting my development as a student. I wish you all the best!
Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (2015). What is occupational therapy? Retrieved from: http://www.caot.ca/default.asp?pageid=3024
Canadian Working Group on HIV and Rehabilitation (2015). DRAFT: Occupational therapy student practicum placements in community-based HIV organizations