By Michael Rizzo, MScOT, OT Reg.(Ont)
Michael Rizzo was a Student Occupational Therapist who completed his final clinical placement at Galit Liffshiz and Associates (GLA). He was supervised by Kathryn Decker, MScOT Reg. (Ont), Director of Clinical Development at GLA. His fieldwork experience at GLA included planning treatment and assessment for persons injured in motor vehicle accidents. It also included assisting with medical-legal reports for cognitive, vocational, attendant care needs, and situational assessments.
I was intrigued by the opportunity to complete my last OT placement in private practice. My previous placements included working in an outpatient stroke program, a low-tolerance long duration unit for older adults, and a WSIB clinic for injured workers.
Each placement afforded me a new set of skills, introduced me to specific treatment protocols, and allowed me to learn and conduct various standardized assessments.
At GLA, I had the opportunity to synthesize all my previous knowledge, apply it to client treatment and assessment, and assume the professional responsibilities of a junior clinician.
My interest in private practice is that it allows for exposure to a wide variety of client types while providing a high degree of autonomy. Having independence and autonomy increased my self-confidence in client interactions, treatment planning, and observational assessments.
While all the clients I worked with at GLA have the shared experience of being injured in a vehicle, their impairments manifest in a multitude of ways. This variety of client issues and functional impairments, provides a prime opportunity to be inventive, collaborative, and flexible in responding to the needs of a client.
My treatment sessions ranged from helping clients with return to work planning, optimizing performance in academics, conserving energy, and reducing anxiety—specifically, driving anxiety.
Often, I corresponded with other members of the team to gather more information about a client’s goals and functional challenges. The opportunity to work with clients on developing independence with more advanced activities of daily living (ADLs), such as meal preparation or study strategies, is a rewarding aspect this work.
I found that I was able to take a more collaborative approach to goal setting with my clients, and use their objectives to guide treatment. In addition to applying evidence-based treatments, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive behavioral exercises, my two months at GLA allowed me to further develop my assessment skills.
I find it a privilege to be able to work with clients in their homes, and a client’s home provides a wealth of information for understanding their values, their goals, and their limitations.
For certain assessments, I also had the opportunity to observe a client’s function in their community. Observing a client complete shopping errands, for instance, provides you a “day in the life” of that person’s challenges, be they physical, cognitive, or emotional.
With a broad understanding of how a person is functioning in their home, community, and sometimes theworkplace, I was able to make comprehensive interpretations of the client’s function, and make confident recommendations to ensure a client’s safety and participation in meaningful activities.
My placement at GLA was optimal for sharpening my clinical documentation skills and making me a more confident writer. By assisting in writing portions of reports at GLA, I learned how to convey an effective narrative of my client’s occupational barriers, a narrative which encompassed the physical, cognitive, social and emotional problems limiting a client’s occupational engagement and functional recovery.
Overall, my two months at GLA made me a more adaptable, competent and client-centred therapist. It forced me to become more organized, and become better at time management. It spurred me to anticipate the needs of clients, be they specific resources or strategies to become more organized and adaptable to the stressors in their life. It challenged me to think on my feet, consider the changing needs of the client, and occasionally shift treatment focus to something of more immediate concern to the client.
I’m grateful for the numerous opportunities I had to use my skill set to positively impact a client’s functional recovery and independence.
The complexity and variability of occupational performance issues, and client goals to address these issues, helped me identify areas for further professional development.
I look forward to joining GLA as an occupational therapist and continuing to develop ways of improving function and occupation.