Hello readers, this is Katerina Tsanaktsi, an occupational therapy student from Greece. I’m so glad to be part of the SPOT and write so interesting articles about our job. Occupational therapy needs talented and committed workers and fortunately our community has plenty of them! I hope you enjoy reading my article and be inspired by the utility of empathy! 

What is really that empathy that everyone is talking about?

Empathy is an important attribute for occupational therapists in establishing rapport and a better understanding of their clients. It is an interpersonal skill and a fundamental component in the OTs-patient
relationship. Empathy is also the feeling when someone can understand the emotional state of other people and help them be themselves. Furthermore, it is an essential competence for the development of quality occupational therapist practice.

Why is empathy so important in this relationship?

The main reason why this is important among occupational therapists and individuals is that safety and trust are developed through discussion and understanding. In this relationship, they can comfortably talk about anything that concerns the clients, in particular, circumstances the occupational therapist is discreet as the individual’s support as he exudes confidence and does not judge their emotions and feelings. The OTs themselves present as a human who wants to help them in the difficulties that they are dealing with and support them regardless of personal ideas and ideologies.

Why is there also a need for the individual to have empathy for the OT?

It is crucial for the patient to be able to perceive the human side of the occupational therapist which makes him vulnerable to some incidents and causes him to project his personal opinions during the conference. This phenomenon of countertransference, where the occupational therapist projects his own feelings during the discussion, is a disadvantage on his side, even though it is normal. For that matter, it should be respected that he tries to renounce this emotional conflict, although this is not always possible. In conclusion, his only purpose is to offer his valuable help.

How does the mental and physical health of the individual effect
the empathy of the occupational therapist?

There are many reasons why empathy helps a particular relationship and develops the standard of living of the individual’s life. First of all, many patients who need occupational therapy face physical dysfunctions that make them either semi-autonomous or completely dependent on other people. Especially in their daily activities, which require simple motor skills, they find it difficult to carry them out and are led to use aids. However, there are some people who cannot afford these aides and they end up dependent on other people. It is necessary for the occupational therapist to understand the need for independence from these individuals and through the trial of the offer to help them evolve. In addition, physical difficulties greatly affect the mental health of the patient and often lead to depressive or manic episodes. Not to mention that mental dysfunction is another reason why occupational therapy is so important to the client. It would be mandatory to clarify that the occupational therapist’s role is different from that of the phycologists, however through their collaboration, they offer full assistance. Regarding mental patients, the occupational therapist can, through projects and activities, achieve the peace of mind that the patient seeks.

How does the society consequence the therapy?

Social relationships are very fragile in today’s society, as they are based on light moral bonds and remote virtual conversations. People who face any problems that need the help of occupational therapists are further removed due to their inability to participate in social life. As mentioned above, people with physical or mental issues struggle to be independent, socialize, and not be marginalized. Perhaps
society tends to look down on these members because it refuses to accept diversity. A typical example of this behavior is the refusal to create proper infrastructure and roads for the purpose of easy access for
all people with disabilities. The goal of the occupational therapist is to help the person who faces such difficulties. As a result, occupational therapy’s understanding and acceptance of dysfunctional members of society without prejudices and stereotypical attitudes are taught.

How has the low self-esteem of some people undermined the occupational therapist’s work?

Self-confidence is a very important asset in order to develop one’s personality and achieve socialization in order to be accepted by society. When a person devalues themselves, he comes to the belief that he does not deserve help, thus rejecting the help of the occupational therapist. At this point it is very difficult for the occupational therapist to convince the client to love himself and externalize his feelings, making their work less feasible. Nonetheless, professional OT’s shall relieve their patient of their personal pain and show them that they are valuable to society.

To sum up, everything that has been stated so far, the occupational therapist’s job is major for people and empathy is a need, because of the fragile relationship that develops during the sessions. The individuals shall respect and be respected in order for the occupational therapy process to function properly and to improve their relationship with themselves and other people.

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