Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program

OTD Program Mission & philosophy

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The Occupational Therapy Doctoral program’s mission is to improve the human condition through occupation by: (1) preparing doctoral-level practitioners who integrate occupational therapy theory, research, and practice; and (2) leading the profession through education, service, research, and advocacy.


The fundamental beliefs of the faculty, which comprise the program’s philosophy regarding humans’ engagement in meaningful occupations and how human beings learn, are consistent with the current published philosophical statements published by the profession (AOTA, 2015a, 2017).

Occupation involves doing things that are meaningful and purposeful by the individual. For example, preparing a meal, playing a game, washing a car, completing a school assignment, and finishing a task at work are all occupations of daily life. Indeed, we can think about a person's life as a stream of occupations engaged in by the individual. To a great extent, we are what we do. Further, occupation actually shapes our character and our health.  Occupation characterizes the dignity and uniqueness of humanity.

In 1917 the profession of occupational therapy was founded for the following purposes: "the advancement of occupation as a therapeutic measure"; "the study of the effect of occupation on the human being"; and "the scientific dispensation of this knowledge" (National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy, 1917, p.1). The philosophy of the Occupational Therapy Doctoral (OTD) degree program at the University of Toledo reflects this commitment and identifies with the current philosophy of the profession (AOTA, 2017). Because of its focus on occupation, the profession of occupational therapy has a vital and unique mission in health care. 

Therapeutic Occupation
Therapeutic occupation is based on the principle that people improve their health and well-being by engaging in occupations (Nelson, 1997). In this regard, occupation can be used as a means and an end.  For example, a child with a movement disorder can acquire better motor patterns while playing a game designed by the occupational therapist; a client in a community mental health program can develop skills in personal financial management and other necessary tasks of daily life with the assistance of the occupational therapist. The uniqueness of occupational therapy is that the clients help themselves through occupation.

The Occupational Therapist
The occupational therapist is a facilitator of therapeutic occupation. The therapist's role is to collaborate with persons who are active in the pursuit of their enhanced health. Hence, occupational therapy clients are active participants, not passive recipients of services. In doing so, the occupational therapist must draw upon a wide array of knowledge, including biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, various health professions, as well as the body of knowledge that is specific to occupational therapy.

Doctoral Education in Occupational Therapy
The goal for the OTD program is for the student as a future therapist to have a personal commitment to the advancement of occupational therapy practice, advocacy, and research (AOTA, 2015a). The program's faculty view the graduate student as a future colleague. The OTD program brings faculty and students together in a joint effort to improve the field, not just to impart or absorb information. A graduate program involves the building of knowledge as well as the attainment of knowledge. Coursework in the OTD program requires professional reasoning and the ability to make independent decisions. As the OTD student acquires knowledge and skill, an important role is to teach fellow students. The graduate student not only learns about the past and present of the profession, but also shares in the design of the future of the profession. Upon graduation, the newly certified and licensed occupational therapist is well prepared to make autonomous decisions to begin a career of excellence in practice, advocacy, and research.

Preparation for Entry-Level Occupational Therapy Practice
The UT OTD program also provides a solid foundation in the practical aspects of occupational therapy. The student experiences clinical practice in every semester throughout the curriculum. In the early stages of the curriculum, the student observes the occupational therapy process and learns to analyze therapeutic occupations. With increasing knowledge, skill, and self-awareness, the student gradually begins to plan occupational therapy evaluations and interventions under the supervision of faculty and occupational therapy practitioners. Over time, the student experiences first-hand the practice of occupational therapy in a wide variety of settings, traditional and non-traditional, and in accordance with many different models of practice. The OTD curriculum also recognizes that education and therapy have an essential psychosocial component. Through practical experiences, the student learns the importance of a holistic perspective, including empathy and the therapeutic use of self in the analysis of therapeutic occupations. Finally, full-time Level II fieldwork for six months and a semester of a capstone experience in an area of personal interest are integral parts of the academic program, with joint clinical and academic assignments. At the conclusion of the OTD program, the student is ready to begin practice as an entry-level occupational therapist across the broad spectrum of occupational therapy treatment settings.

OTD Values
The OTD program is firmly rooted in core values (AOTA, 2015b). Derived from occupational therapy philosophy and graduate educational philosophy, these values commit the OTD student to the following:

· An unshakable belief in the inherent dignity of the person

· A holistic conception of the occupational nature of the human being

· Adherence to the profession’s Code of Ethics (AOTA, 2015b)

· The use of advanced cognitive abilities, including professional reasoning

· The understanding of the importance of empathy in clinical practice and in professional life

· A willingness to learn from and teach others, including peers

· The ability to engage in mentoring relationships

· Self-directedness and ownership for learning and behavior

In conclusion, the OTD student is a collaborator in a social movement dedicated to the advancement of the profession of occupational therapy. Those in need of therapeutic occupations will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the contributions of occupational therapists educated in UT's OTD program.

National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy. Certificate of Incorporation of the National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy. Incorporated in the District of Columbia and notarized by James A. Rolfe in Clifton Springs, New York, March 15, 1917.

Nelson, D. L. (1997). The 1996 Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture. Why the profession of occupational therapy will flourish in the Twenty-first century. American Journal of Occupational Therapy 51, 11-24.

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2015a). Philosophy of occupational therapy education. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69(Suppl. 3), 6913410052. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.696S17

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2015b). Occupational therapy code of ethics (2015). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69(Suppl. 3), 6913410030. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.696S03

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2017). Philosophical base of occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(Suppl. 2)


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Last Updated: 7/15/24