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Program Philosophy

The work “Philosophy means “love of wisdom” a dedicated inquiry into ideas, traditions, innovations, and ways of thinking (Ozmon & Craver, 1999). The philosophical foundation established in any educational program is a vital determinant to its success. Our program is specifically designed for students who aspire to return to school to become occupational therapists (OT’s). The flexible, part-time evening and weekend model serves as the structure and framework of the program to support the students as they transition into occupational therapists (OT’s).


The philosophy of the Salem State University Occupational Therapy Program in keeping with the College of Health and Human Services and the University; the Occupational Therapy Program mission seeks to engage all learners in this “love of wisdom” for self and the occupational therapy profession, enhancing a commitment to life-long learning. Students will embark on a journey that will lead to the discovery of new thoughts, ideas, and problem solving strategies. Students will embrace the concepts and traditions of occupational therapy as skills and professional competencies in multiple areas are obtained.


Through examination and application of skills in a technologically enhanced and problem-based format, students will gain skills and insight necessary to transition to the role of OT. The major focus of the program is to facilitate student understanding of the clinical-reasoning process, to advance commitment and service to the profession and greater community, to foster skill development in the investigative process of research, and to create an appreciation and dedication to the conceptual foundations of occupational therapy.


Humans are complex beings. They learn through experience. Those individual experiences are unique to the individual. A learner must be understood in terms of the physical, psychological, cultural, social and emotional factors that may hamper or enhance the learning process. These characteristics have an immense impact on the shape and direction of one’s life. John Dewey wrote: “Education is the process by which a culture is transmitted from generation to generation, occurring by the means of communication of habits, activities, thoughts, and feelings from older to younger members of culture. Without this, social life cannot survive; therefore, education should not be looked on merely as schooling and the acquisition of subject matter but as a part of life itself (McDermott, 1981).


Occupational therapy students are taught to understand the complexity that pertains to human beings and how they learn. The occupational therapy profession also embraces the concept of holism that all of the experiences associated with our world, help to shape the person that we become. Understanding this concept of holism assists the clinician to motivate clients toward achievement of goals, especially as issues related to human occupation are addressed. Although the profession is continuously changing, understanding of human beings learn, valuing this concept of holism, and recognizing the impact of occupation in one’s life remain steadfast principles that have been embraced by the occupational therapy profession since the early years. As shifts in the occupational therapy professional paradigm occur, and as competition for consumer service and client needs become greater, it will be imperative that future leaders of the profession are well prepared academically.


The faculty members at Salem State University believe in the importance of making connections between theoretical knowledge and applicable practice situations. Theory is what drives the occupational therapy profession to adapt and change to the social, economic, and cultural needs of a population at any given time. In addition to theory, it is essential that the OT program provide an integrated approach to the intellectual and developmental needs of students and recognize their uniqueness. The faculty members also believe that students exposed to a curriculum that enhances community involvement through outreach programs and community internships will foster improved communications that benefit the student’s professional skill development. Academic programs must prepare future practitioners to respond effectively to changes occurring in the profession and in society.


Shaping a student’s ability to apply theoretical principles is a primary focus at Salem State University. Student learning is facilitated in many ways and through multiple channels throughout the curriculum. Students will continuously grow and develop in their attainment of skills and knowledge as they travel through the program building meaningful connections from one semester to the next. Mattingly and Fleming refer to this as “knowing more than we can tell.” This “tacit” knowledge forms the base of all other thoughts and actions that comprise practice (Mattingly & Fleming, 1994). Upon completion of the program each student will enter the field at a novice level. In time, mastery and proficiency in clinical reasoning skills will be realized, tacit knowledge will be refined, and positions at an intermediate, proficient, and expert practitioner level will be attained.


The information presented in the curriculum is an important component to the learning process, but more importantly, the application of such knowledge needs to be experienced and applied in real life settings. It is up to the academic program as well as clinical educators to provide opportunities for students that will foster skills resulting in independent, empathetic, and critical thinking practitioners. Occupational therapy practitioners learn early on in their academic preparation to view clients in a holistic manner. It is also imperative for educational institutions and clinical settings to embrace this concept of holism when mentoring future occupational therapy professionals.

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