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Program Philosophy

Occupational Therapy is a rehabilitation profession, which can be characterized by the models of rehabilitation science articulated by the American Occupational Therapy Association (Moyers & Dale, 2007), the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) (2001), and the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research of the National Institutes of Health (Pope & Tarlov, 1991). The major goal of Occupational Therapy, as defined by the scope of practice, is to optimize occupational performance within the context of a client’s cultural, personal, physical, social, temporal and virtual environments (AOTA, 2008).  Occupational Therapists focus on improving performance in all areas of occupation to facilitate health and promote growth, change, and/or adaptation.  The ultimate goal of this focus is meaningful occupation that supports survival, self-actualization, occupational balance, and quality of life (AOTA, 2008).  We envision that effective intervention delivered through meaningful occupations must take into account multiple levels of functioning, as reflected by the models of rehabilitation science cited above. This document reflects the philosophical foundation of our professional occupational therapy program, which serves as the basis for our current curriculum design.

A View of Humanity

The University at Florida Occupational Therapy professional program is based on the philosophical belief that people have a vital need for occupation. Occupation is defined as the ways in which people occupy their time and includes activities such as self-care, play, work, and leisure. One engages in occupation for three primary reasons: (1) to acquire the skills and behaviors necessary for insuring one’s survival, (2) to achieve a sense of quality in one’s life, and (3) to contribute to the progress and well-being of society by being a productive member of that society (AOTA, 2007; AOTA, 2008).

Based on the assumption that it is within the context of roles that people engage in occupation, the concept of occupational role emerged to account for those major life roles that occupy ones time. These major life roles or occupational roles have a developmental perspective, and change over the course of a lifetime. In the WHO ICF model, life roles are conceptualized as “participation”.  Each role has its associated developmentally-appropriate and role-appropriate tasks that influence the nature of one’s occupations. What evolves in responding to these tasks is called occupational behavior. Occupational competence is another concept, which implies an individual’s ability to engage in a fulfilling lifestyle consistent with his goals and values.

When individuals are threatened by stress, deprivation, disease, illness or injury, occupational therapy interventions address (1) the individual’s physical, psychological, and social capacities to achieve occupational competence, (2) the skills and habits of effective role performance or (3) environmental modification to support participation. Therapeutically, occupation maybe used to prevent, mediate or facilitate independence and maximum adaption to functional changes (AOTA, 1979).  Human learning occurs via the dynamic interaction between a person and a task in the context of the relevant environment.  Occupational therapy strives to facilitate this process through active collaboration between the client and the therapist.

Educational Philosophy

The professional program fosters culturally sensitive and evidence based clinical competence by actively engaging the learner in a collaborative process (student, client and educator) that builds on prior knowledge and experience and integrates professional academic knowledge, experiential learning, clinical reasoning, and self-reflection.  The program facilitates integration of philosophical and theoretical knowledge, values, beliefs, ethics, and technical skills for broad application to practice in order to improve human participation and quality of life (Hinojosa, 2006).  The professional program promotes life long learning, collaboration and professional developmental to support continual contributions to critical inquiry in evidence-based practice.


American Occupational Therapy Association. (1979). Philosophical base of occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 33, 785.

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2007). Philosophy of occupational therapy education. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 57, 640.

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2008). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process (2nd ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 62, 625–688.

Hinojosa, J. (2006). Professional development training: Establishing clarity, focus, meaning, and relevance to client outcomes. [Electronic Version]. OT Practice, 11(11), 7-8.

Moyers, P. A., & Dale, L. M. (2007). The guide to occupational therapy practice (2nd ed.). Bethesda, MD: AOTA Press.

World Health Organization. (2001). International classification of functioning, disability, and health (ICF). Geneva, Switzerland: Author.