My GU classmates and I have begun our Level 1 occupational therapy fieldwork experiences. In the occupational therapy doctorate program (OTD), we go through three “Level I” placements and two “Level II” placements prior to completing the program.
Currently, we’re on our first psycho-social rotations, and have been placed at some of our many community partner organizations. Our placements range from special education classes at local elementary schools to homeless shelters and local churches.
I have been placed at an organization called the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more commonly known as “NAMI.” NAMI focuses on listening, educating, advocating and leading the path to help those who have experienced mental illness by ending stigma and encouraging others to share their stories.
I’d like to share one of the most meaningful experiences I had while on my first fieldwork experience.
One major key in starting out a successful fieldwork or internship journey: build a positive relationship with your clinical instructor, or “CI.”
I was very upfront with my CI, Karen, in what my strengths and interests were. Communication is key when it comes to building that relationship, and I’m thankful to have found a mentor and role model in her.
Upon talking about the needs of NAMI, we quickly determined that my focus throughout placement was advocacy – this benefitted my learning experience as well as the organization I was working with. One way I have been doing this is through networking and educating members of the community (such as parents) and/or health professionals on how to go about sharing stories related to mental illness. I’ve also been working on an advocacy toolkit geared toward all populations.
My toolkit is designed to be a stepping stone for those who want to be more involved on a personal, state or federal level of advocacy. This is a project that I’m very proud of, because I want to spread my knowledge to others in order to promote social change.
Another duty for me has been to create a list of community organizations that NAMI can collaborate with on various platforms and settings.
Understanding my passion for helping others to share their stories, Karen invited me to a get-together at a judge’s home. The event consisted of dinner and networking, which included members of the community such as parents, health professionals, legal representatives as well as other community organizations.
There were guest speakers who told stories of their experience with mental illness, from a parent talking about the difficulties that arise when noticing abnormal behavioral patterns in their children to an individual talking about how stigma impacts why people are afraid to get the help they need.
Through having the opportunity to hear personal accounts of mental illness, I was able to more fully understand how important my future career as a mental health/early intervention occupational therapist is to not only restore function to my future clients, but to promote, advocate and raise awareness of mental health while also working with others to end stigma.
We hope that others are inspired to open their homes to hold this type of casual event where we can discuss what we are doing to help end stigma and to have a safe place to talk about mental illness.
I am thankful for this experience in the sense that I finally understand where I belong in terms of my future career.
This was something I constantly struggled with – due to having interests in so many areas of study.
That night, I recognized that every experience I’d had to this point had happened for a reason. To be surrounded by so many different people who came together for one cause allowed me to see how important it is to listen to others and to speak up for causes that are important to not only me, but for the wellbeing of my community; I’m more confident than ever that this is what I want to continue to do for as long as I can.
Have any questions or just want to chat? Feel free to email me, and thanks for being a part of my journey.
– Sue Ram