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Specialty Certifications: Value-added or Unnecessary?

When do you really need a specialty certification versus just capitalizing on your professional training?  Five reasons why you might want to go the extra mile and earn those extra letters for your professional signature.

At this point in my career, I have earned three additional certifications that have advanced my practice skills and fulfilled my desire to become more knowledgeable about several personal and professional areas of interest.

However, when is enough, enough?  Maybe never… but there are specific reasons why you may want to earn an advanced certification versus simply capitalizing on education from your professional program that you already worked so hard to graduate from.

Let’s start with when you should think twice about a specialty certification and instead realize you likely already possess the skills required for researching and reading resources from your profession to deepen your knowledge of a particular subject area within the existing scope of practice of your professional degree. 

Specifically for occupational therapy practitioners, we have nearly every area of human, and therefore occupational, performance under our scope of practice.  These include activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, health management, rest and sleep, education, work, play, leisure, and social participation.  If there is an area you are looking to become an expert in, look to research articles, professional articles (e.g. OT Practice), and continuing education courses offered by fellow occupational therapy practitioners. 

Additionally, you may get the answers you need by reaching out to the researchers and experts and setting up a time to chat over the phone or zoom.  Be cautious of organizations outside of the profession offering specialty certifications in areas of practice that occupational therapy practitioners already focus on in our scope of practice.  Chances are the certification will not be taught with an occupational participation-focused lens and may not be directly applicable to occupational therapy practice.  

With that being said…

If you’ve decided, “yep”, I still want that specialty certification, here are five reasons to consider that support investing in that specialized training.

1. It’s distinct

The technique is truly distinct to the training being offered.  Examples of these courses are The John F. Barnes’ Myofascial Release ApproachⓇ or becoming a Certified Kinesio Taping Practitioner (CKTP).  Sure, you could learn under a mentor, however, going to the courses allows you to follow a specific curriculum that the creator of the technique developed.  You’re getting the information from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

2. It increases credibility

Earning the credential will result in increased and needed credibility in the area you are practicing in.  I did one of my level II fieldwork experiences in a large urban hospital where most of the therapists had the Certified Brain Injury Specialist (CBIS) credential.  Even though this is an interdisciplinary certification and not specific to occupational therapy, I was convinced I needed the credential by the time I was finished with my rotation.  Further, now that I actually have that credential, I think the biggest advantage was that it broaden my perspective on rehabilitation needs and social services that need to be provided for individuals across the spectrum of care for individuals who live with a brain injury. 

3. It has a favorable ROI

It will increase your pay.  I know this may sound a little shallow, however, financial planning and career advancement are real considerations that we professionals must consider.  Plus, we are being honest and talking about what we were already thinking about.  Additionally, many of these certifications cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars.  It is wise to consider the return on investment (ROI).

4. It recognizes you as an expert

The certification shows you are an expert in this area of practice.  These certifications can be found in the form of certification programs offered or exams that can be taken.  The American Occupational Therapy Association offers an exam-based advanced certification.  Other programs include the USC Chan Sensory Integration Continuing Education (CE) Certificate Progam and the Certified Living in Place Professional from the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

5. It is essentially required

The certification is required (or strongly recommended) to enter that specific area of practice.  There are certain areas that demand advanced practice credentials.  For example, earning the Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) certification is considered standard and best practice for practitioners working in this area.  The certification is interdisciplinary and provides practitioners with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively serve individuals who require assistive technology.

As always, I love to hear from readers! Reach out and comment. Let me know what specialty certifications you are chasing and when you achieve them!

*Disclaimer: The author has no association with and does not endorse any of the certifications or programs mentioned in this article.  All continuing education should be evaluated and carefully chosen by the prospective professional.

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How Yoga Can Help People Recovering from COVID-19

Hi Everybody, Heidi here!  I’m writing to you today with my home health occupational therapist and yoga instructor hats on.  Before I went on maternity leave, I was starting to see more and more patients in their homes after discharging from a hospitalization due to COVID-19.  These patients were mostly middle-aged and had been generally healthy before they got sick.  The one thing they all had in common when I saw them?  Taking a deep breath was really, really hard.  They were also experiencing decreased stamina and energy needed to get through their day.

I immediately thought of my yoga background and the most effective yoga techniques I use every day, all day long.  Breathing practices (or pranayama).  Yogic breathing practices are tremendously beneficial for helping to regulate the nervous system, lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and so much more (10 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Pranayama (Yoga Breathing)).  

I began introducing yoga breathing and simple interventions (like a warrior series) into my sessions and my patients reported (anecdotally of course) that it was helping them!  I made it simple and provided written handouts so they could continue the practice everyday.   

Three yoga breathing practices I taught

Simple Warrior Series

  • Usually standing at the kitchen counter (for extra stability if needed), I taught Warrior I -> Warrior II -> Reverse Warrior
    • I made sure to focus on cueing the breath and creating visualizations for breathing into the extra space created in the ribs especially with the Reverse Warrior posture.
    • I followed the clients stamina level and introduced everything very slowly.  We were able to build on the practice each session.

Here are some considerations when introducing yoga-based interventions into rehabilitation.  Consider whether or not yoga will be a meaningful intervention for your client?  

Find out if they…

  • are currently practicing yoga
  • have expressed an interest in learning yoga
  • are receptive to a few introductory techniques you show them

This last point is important.  Most of the time, I will initially instruct a client in an introductory yoga intervention and not even call it yoga because I want them to experience the technique without being biased by it being called “yoga”.  I will typically teach diaphragmatic breathing or a counted breath (like box breathing) technique and then ask them how they felt after.  For people who have never done yoga, I find that it is really important for them to experience some components of it first hand to help them understand that yoga doesn’t have to mean sweating on a mat for 60 minutes twisted like a pretzel.  I find this to be even more important and effective for people who are really having challenges with their health and who have just come home from the hospital.  Many times they are so weak and so discombobulated that doing and explaining after is so much more effective.

In case you want to dig deeper in the research, here is an article published earlier this year in the International Journal of Yoga: Yoga for COVID-19

Have you been teaching yoga to people recovering from COVID-19? Please share in the comments below, we would love to hear from you!

*The instructions in this article are for educational purposes and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen.

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What is Occupational Therapy?

Chances are you may have never heard of occupational therapy.  Unless you have gone through rehabilitation after an injury or illness or know someone with different abilities who went through therapy growing up, occupational therapy is one of those specialized healthcare professions that is still gaining momentum in the mainstream conversation of society.

Nevertheless, ask an occupational therapy practitioner or student (or a consumer who has had experience with occupational therapy) and you are sure to hear about all of the wonderful roles that OT plays in healthcare and in society.  Many of these definitions are based on the personal and professional experiences of these advocates.

Occupational therapy is a vital healthcare profession because occupational therapy practitioners understand that learning what motivates people helps us understand how to help people live the most fulfilling version of their lives. 

Occupational therapy practitioners understand that participating in meaning activities and occupations is at the core of the human experience.  That is why therapeutic engagement in occupations is at the core of occupational therapy practice and is the distinct value of occupational therapy.  Occupational therapy is informed by occupational science, anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, anthropology, sociology, and more.

Occupational therapy practitioners understand that human beings are “doers” and that the meaning and purpose of life can often times be found in what people do; therefore, when people experience an accident/illness/injury that prevents “doing” the effects can be devastating.  Occupational therapy practitioners are trained to work with individuals to restore function and teach compensatory techniques to facilitate a person’s return to the highest level of independence to “do” for themselves once again in the person’s “new normal”.  In the case of children who are born with a disability, occupational therapy practitioners work with the child and family from the child’s birth to support the best quality of life, development, and functional abilities.

One of my favorite quotes to sum up occupational therapy came from Ginny Stoffel when she stated:

“Occupational therapy practitioners ask, “what matters to you” not, “what’s the matter with you?”” ~ Ginny Stoffel, AOTA Past President

The following definition is from the World Federation of Occupational Therapy:

Occupational therapy is a client-centered health profession concerned with promoting health and well being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement. (WFOT, 2012)

For more information, visit: the World Federation of Occupational Therapy website

Therapist Tool: Scoring Spreadsheets for the Developmental Assessment of Young Children (DAYC-2)

This is ONLY a scoring sheet for the Developmental Assessment of Young Children (DAYC-2). The purpose of this tool is to allow the scorer to enter the raw scores from the paper/electronic administration pages and then have the spreadsheet tally the scores with pre-filled formulas. The scores are automatically added up in an effort to eliminate the flipping of pages back and forth and to reduce the chance of copy errors.

The Standard Scores will NOT automatically populate and the practitioner must reference the Raw Score to Standard Score conversions in the table at the back of the manual. However, this is still a time saver and hopefully eliminates some chance for error.

Please click HERE to access the tool.

Enjoy!

SAFE Yoga Principles

“SAFE” Yoga principles are intended to be a blueprint for building therapy sessions that are therapeutically powerful with yoga as the modality.

I was invited to present my very first yoga workshop to fellow therapy practitioners a few years back and to say I was over the moon is an understatement.  I was both excited and nervous because, while I had been teaching yoga classes for years, this was my first opportunity to start to teach about why I believed so strongly that yoga had strong therapeutic potential in the therapy space among pediatric occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech and language practitioners.  

I began preparing my presentation and quickly figured out that I needed tools to summarize core concepts that made very large topics tangible and digestible for people who were interested in using yoga therapeutically and are just getting started.

I chose to turn to what many consider to be the original “instructional book” on yoga, the yoga sutras by Patanjali and I created the “SAFE” principles based on sutras from the text.

The SAFE principles are intended to be a blueprint and a guide for creating yoga interventions for clients in a purposeful and intentional way to support goal-directed yoga activities in therapy settings.

S = Safe for the body (comfortable) – Sutra 2.46

A = Appropriate for the activity (e.g. preparation, focus, strengthening) – Sutra 2.29

F = Functional (relates to the goal) – Sutra 1.2

E = Engaging (for the client) – Sutra 3.9

Please let me know how you applied the SAFE yoga principles and how it went, I love feedback!

Yoga’s Secret Sauce? Devotion.

I cautiously picked up a pilates class to sub for this past Saturday because it was an hour before the yoga class I had already agreed to sub for. I am not a pilates instructor so I told the class I’d do my best to do a “pilates/core-focused yoga class”.

I got through the class and thought it went very well, and no one walked out so I took that as a big win. However, I couldn’t help but notice that the energy felt different throughout the class. It was definitely a “workout” class. People wanted to feel their abs burn and work their bodies to the max. Of course, nothing is wrong with this but it was a stark difference from the energy that filled the room once the yoga class started.

It wasn’t until about fifteen minutes into the yoga class that it hit me. Devotion. We were in the middle of sun salutations and it occurred to me that this was the difference, this was the intention that I feel when entering a yoga practice or yoga space.

De·vo·tion (n) /dəˈvōSH(ə)n/ ~ love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause.

Oxford Languages

In the past, I have often grappled with explaining what makes yoga different from traditional exercise and why yoga practice is distinct from exercise. I have always felt it but now I finally have the word to describe it.

Yoga is a practice of love and Light and whether it is in the gym, a park, at the office, or at home, there is something special about dedicating time to yourself, devoting time to yourself, to practice yoga. Yoga is about self-love.

May your yoga practice be full of devotion, Namaste.

I would love to hear your feedback! Comment, like, share, and subscribe!

All the best in love and Light,

Heidi

Do Yoga Everyday: Create your home practice

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Consistency is key” ~ Unknown

Yoga can be a powerful practice to include into our daily lives. For me, following the yoga teachings of the yoga sutras by Patanjali has been life changing in my ability to manage anxiety and become a person who observes before reacting. I feel empowered to tackle bigger and bigger projects and to seek greater understanding of the life experiences I am presented with.

Yoga requires daily practice. Develop your sadhana today!

How to set yourself up for success in five steps:

  1. Dedicate a space for practice – this can be a place on the floor where you lay out a mat or a special cushion.
  2. Schedule the daily practice – start with a time commitment that you will be consistent with. This might literally be two minutes of practice. Maybe even one moment you pause during the day and take one, full, deep breath. Trust me, the more you spend time in your yoga practice, the more time you will want to spend in your yoga practice. Watch this TedTalk for great insights for habit change.
  3. Invest in yourself by acquiring the tools you want for your practice.
    • If you are going to be doing more physical poses (asanas) invest in a good mat, blocks, a strap, and a bolster or two.
    • If you are going to be doing mostly meditation, invest in a cushion and mala beads.
  4. Hold yourself accountable. Look forward to your daily practice or tell a friend or family member to check-in with you to make sure you follow through with your commitment.
  5. Set a goal or two. In rehab, we always set goals with our patients. Writing SMART goals can help you stay on track and motivated to keep up with your daily yoga practice. SMART stands for:
    • S = Specific
    • M = Measurable
    • A = Achievable
    • R = Realistic
    • T = Time-bound
    • Example = I will practice yoga for at least five minutes every morning before 8am for at least 5/7 days of the week.

All the best in your yoga adventures!

Namaste,

Heidi

Overcome Postpartum Wrist Pain with these Simple Tips to Improve Everyday Life

“A mother’s arms are more comforting than anyone else’s.”

Princess diana

Wrist pain after pregnancy doesn’t have to become a barrier to enjoying life with your new bundle of joy. While the cause is likely due to the extended time you now spend holding your baby and lugging around that car seat, there are some simple steps you can take to ease the pain and prevent any repetitive stress injury to the wrists.  

Repetitive stress injuries occur when someone repeats the same motion over and over, for example, holding the same position for long periods of time. More information from the Cleveland Clinic here.

The following protective techniques and preventative strategies may support well-being by promoting a reduction in pain.*  

Use larger muscle groups when carrying equipment. This simply means using the largest muscle group(s) to bear weight whenever possible.  For example, carry the car seat with the forearm instead of with the hand (which causes additional stress and possible inflammation of the tendons of the hand/forearm due to gripping something heavy tightly). [picture or physical example of what this looks like will help]

Ergonomics for Mothers and Caregivers. Ergonomics for mothering means completing our “work” as efficiently and safely as possible.  Specifically for addressing wrist pain, be sure to keep the wrists in a neutral position whenever possible (including when typing, driving, and using electronic devices).  When holding your baby, be sure to prop up the arms and baby on a pillow (such as a BoppyⓇ) for nursing and feeding.  Also when feeding a baby, it is important to support your body as well by sitting with the feet and back supported so that the muscles can stay relaxed.

Active range of motion and tendon glides. One of the most important and simple exercises we can do is to move both arms within a full active range of motion, this includes shoulder shrugs, arm circles, and tendon glides for the hand/fingers(see below).  These exercises can prevent tension from developing in the most used muscle groups and decrease the chance of developing tendonitis in the muscles of the forearm. 

A Note about Tendons ~ the movements of the hand are controlled by muscles that originate in the forearm.  The tendons of those muscles are located in the wrist, hand, and fingers/thumb.  Tendon glides help stretch and move the muscles through their full range of motion and can help tendons glide through the carpal tunnel.

Mindfulness. Go about your day completing your  daily activities with intention. Practicing mindfulness simply means to complete daily activities intentionally.  In the instance of postpartum wrist pain, mindfulness can help by reminding us to relax.  For example, throughout the day, be mindful about relaxing the shoulders and relaxing any tension in the body, specifically the tension we hold in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands due to all of the lifting and carrying.  Keeping the muscles relaxed can assist with easing pain.  

Created by Heidi Carpenter, OTD, OTR/L © September 2020. Embody Occupational Therapy, LLC.

*This article is for educational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen.

Therapist Tool: Scoring Spreadsheets for the Sensory Profile-2 and the Sensory Processing Measure

At Embody OT, most of the focus is on mind-body modalities; however, I wanted to share this tool that was very helpful to me when I was working in outpatient pediatrics.

This is ONLY a scoring sheet for each version of the Sensory Profile-2 and the Sensory Processing Measure assessments. The purpose of this tool is to allow the scorer to enter the raw scores from the paper scoring sheet and then have the spreadsheet tally the scores with pre-filled formulas. The scores are automatically added up in an effort to eliminate the flipping of pages back and forth and to reduce the chance of copy errors.

Please click HERE to access the tool.

Enjoy!

The Embody OT Philosophy

The Embody OT Philosophy is built on the principle that establishing healthy habits is at the core of wellness.  The adage, “consistency is key” is so important when it comes to being healthy and managing chronic conditions.

The foundation of Embody OT is built on the three concepts of embody, empower, engage and make up the “Self-awareness, empowerment, and engagement” (SAEEM) Model. SAEEM depicts the transformation that occurs when behaviors change to support living well.  To embody signifies that a person acknowledges and becomes aware of who they are and accepts the body and mind they are living with.  Empowerment occurs when a person learns which healthy habits support their individual needs; “education is power” and learning how to manage the conditions we live with (as opposed to “control”) allows for transformation to begin.  When we “let go” of feeling the need to control, we replace the feeling of control with wisdom to know which areas of our life can change.  Finally, to engage in daily life utilizing new skills and practicing new habits supports the goal to “live life to the fullest”.

This model of “Embody, Empower, Engage” is built on many frameworks and theories most notable, the Transtheoretical Model of Change (TTM), Motivational Interviewing, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Mind-Body Modalities (aka Mind-Body Interventions) are at the heart of Embody OT, these include meditation, tai chi, and yoga.