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Promoting OT

Raising the profile of occupational therapy

Karin Tancock, COT Professional Affairs Officer for Older People and Long-term Conditions, asks how we can best highlight OTs’ unique skills.

We need to raise the profile of occupational therapy—members tell us this, we know it and it is a key ongoing objective for the practice team at COT.  As a professional affairs officer, I am involved in facilitating roadshows and events for members and I often ask: How do you explain occupational therapy to people? The response is usually an exasperated: Why should we have to explain our role? Why don’t the public know our role by now? This is then swiftly followed by What is COT doing about this?

In the practice team we focus our influencing on cross-professional groups, joint working with UK charities and the different care inspectorates and bodies that influence practice such as the National Centre for Care and Excellence (NICE) and national governments.  Vital as this work is, it does not give us a high profile with the man or woman on the street. To grab media attention, to get on television, we need a story, or to be seen as experts on an issue preoccupying the nation. So we have taken the first steps in trying to produce a resource that identifies occupational therapists as experts.


Last September the College launched a new type of publication, an electronic resource called the Living well through activity in care homes toolkit. This was a new venture for the College as it is primarily aimed at the general public and care home sector—not our members.

We were not sure how it would be received, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  It has proved a useful tool for opening doors to talk to a sector that we know needs occupational therapy but for many reasons has limited access.

The launch of the toolkit has gone hand-in-hand with a communications strategy, with articles in various publications such as the Nursing Times and Guardian online. These articles have focused on voicing an occupational therapy perspective on what good quality of care looks like in residential settings.  Radio 4 also commissioned a piece on the toolkit. We are not quite on the breakfast TV sofa, but maybe producing more resources like the toolkit is the way forward.

Public health is the current big debate— an area we have not traditionally worked in but where we have key skills to offer. Obesity, for example, is described as a growing epidemic. As practitioners we are working with many people who are overweight and this is impacting on their health.  Are we working around a person’s weight or are we actively addressing the reasons for their eating choices and habits? Is this the next area to highlight our skills to the public and commissioners?

We would welcome your thoughts—should COT develop a wider range of resources for the public to create greater demand and recognition for occupational therapy?  If yes, is public health the way to go? Are you willing to act as a media spokesperson? 


8 thoughts on “Raising the profile of occupational therapy

  1. I am an ot and a stroke survivor I would be happy to be involved as a case history

    Posted by judy | March 24, 2014, 10:55
  2. It’s an interesting topic…..have you asked the advise of a PR/advertising company….would love to know what they said?

    Posted by inclusionme | March 24, 2014, 11:21
  3. It’s an interesting question….have you asked the advise of a marketing company….would love to know what they thought the best ways to protect & promote the profession would be?

    Posted by inclusionme | March 24, 2014, 11:23
  4. The practice team will be planning with marketing priorities for October 2014 to October 2015 (our business year) . Would love to hear members views as part of that process.

    Posted by karin tancock | March 26, 2014, 12:29
    • Hi Karin, interesting article (hope you’re well), for what it’s worth I think some sort of campaign to highlight what occupational therapists can help people with would be beneficial. I overheard an OT a few weeks ago complaining that people think we just hand out toilet seats (this from another profession) and it got me wondering, well, how did you explain your role to counter this perception. I was wondering whether a documentary or something would be a good idea, ie addressing many of the current/future issues (ie obesity, unemployment, loneliness etc etc) and how occupational therapists can help counter them and thereby reducing the healthcare bill (or something like that).

      Posted by Mark | March 30, 2014, 09:29
  5. Hi, re: public health and occupational therapy – I am currently completing my honours research around a health promotion group for wellbeing run by an occupational therapist in New Zealand. The group is based around developing resilience through engaging in occupations that promote health such as self-care activities and being active. There is also a focus on coping strategies, identification of strengths and sensory modulation/relaxation techniques. This group is being offered in schools. My honours project is on the experiences of the young people in the group.
    I am an advocate for the role of occupational therapy in non-generic practice areas such as public health – we definitely have alot to offer!


    Posted by HonoursOT | April 8, 2014, 02:21

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