Roles Within Roles

As occupational therapists, we often talk about the roles we take on in our daily lives and the occupations that are part of those roles. A parent feeds their child, changes their diaper and transports them to daycare. A dog owner takes them on walks, to the vet and adds their favorite treats to the shopping cart.

But you know what OTPs don’t talk about enough? Roles within roles – how a role changes based on context, the physical environment, those around you – that roles are dynamic and ever-changing. How parent feeds their children may change if one uses a feeding tube. A dog owner who lives in the city may have to remember to bring a leash for every walk, while the only thing a dog owner from the country needs to remember for every walk is to check for ticks afterwards.

It’s important to remember that at any time any role and the occupations associated with it could change – the dog owner in the city could move to the country.

I am an occupational therapist, but right now that is manifesting in three very different ways. Within being an occupational therapist, I am also a business owner and student.  

I’m just finishing up a contract as a school-based therapist. Now, this is what you would expect out of a role of an occupational therapist – treatment plans, note writing, IEP meetings. It’s what I was taught to do and is a fairly textbook, cookie-cutter role.

At the same time, I am continuing work on my private practice. This one is anything but a textbook, cookie-cutter role! Everyday is different and I almost never know what to expect. The occupations as an occupational therapist in this role are extremely different. While I am still treatment planning, note writing and attending client meetings, I am also doing marketing, billing, administration – a lot of which was never taught to us in OT school!

I also started my first semester of my doctoral program this fall. Being a student of occupational therapy, while also being a practicing occupational therapist is the strangest contradiction I have ever experienced. I hope I’m not alone when I say that I really struggled with self-doubt during grad school, so being a student correlates with lack of confidence to me. It’s refreshing to be working in an OT student role now, knowing that I am already the practicing OT I wanted to be in grad school. It helps me take a step back and not cloud my mind with trying to prove myself since I am already proven.

These three roles within my role as an occupational therapist have had me on a rollercoaster of confidence levels for the past couple of months. It’s a whirlwind to go from the confidence of running a private practice to being a student of the same field later that day. But this is one of the aspects that drew me to occupational therapy in the first place – there are so many different directions you can go in, that when you graduate there isn’t this one “thing” you are expected to be or do.

Now it’s your turn – tell me below how a role you take on in life looks different under different circumstances! How do you think we can better address this dynamic in practice?   

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