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Building Capacity

Published April 8, 2014 12:05 PM by Danielle Bullen
"I am honored and to stand before you as the 29th president of the AOTA." So said Virginia "Ginny" Stoffel, PhD, OT, BCMH, FAOTA to a crowd at the 2014 AOTA Annual Conference and Expo on Friday, April 3rd.  Her presidential address was called, "Attitude, Authenticity and Action: Building Capacity."

"There is no question about the power of attitude," she said. For occupational therapy clients, attitude creates the emotional fortitude to pursue well-being. Clients fill many roles-parent, child, employee, employer, etc.-and need to be clear about what matters the most to them. "We facilitate reflection on what makes life worth living," Stoffel explained.

She went on to define the 6 emotional styles that affect attitudes and by extension, how client's deal with their recoveries.  Resilience is how fast one recovers from adversity. Outlook is the capacity to remain upbeat. Social Interaction is the consideration of non-verbal cues. Self-awareness is being highly conscious of one's inner thoughts. Cultural Sensitivity is being aware of societal expectations. Attention is the ability to screen out distraction.

"Attitude affects perception. We start by offering unconditional support and acceptance of each person."

Occupational therapists must understand each client's lived experiences in order to be authentic.

Authenticity is an important aspect of heartfelt leaderships.  It can be defined as "being true to oneself in spite of outside pressures."

It's clear that people have better health and quality of life when they are involved in meaningful occupations. Authenticity means understanding the person, environment, and occupation interaction.  Occupational therapy can re-open the door to new possibilities.  "We beget real-life change and authentic working relationships."

Attitude and authenticity lead to great philosophical discussions, but are incomplete without action. "We are a profession that is ready to roll up our sleeves," said Stoffel.  OTs are no longer content to let other disciplines take the lead when it comes time for health policy discussions. "AOTA is building bridges by focusing on the value OT brings to primary care."

At last year's Capitol Hill Day, 750 AOTA members, representing 34 states, came to Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress. Additionally, members sent their Senators and Representatives over 1300 pro-occupational therapy letters in one day alone.

To support finding new directions for occupational therapy, the AOTA and the AOTF partnered together to give 5 researchers $50,000 grants. Those grants will support the Centennial Vision goal to be science-driven and evidence-based. The researchers will focus on autism and healthy aging, areas that have been identified as health priorities.

"We can do together what neither of us could do alone."

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