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Occupational Therapy Program

Mission and Philosophy

Mission Statement & Program Goals

The program's mission is to educate competent entry-level occupational therapists who will be prepared to practice in an urban environment.

Program goals are to:

  • Provide students with the knowledge, theories, and skills required for competent, evidence-based practice;
  • Provide students with a challenging, yet supportive, environment for learning;
  • Provide opportunities for students to collaborate with faculty, peers, and clinicians, and professionals in related disciplines;
  • Provide opportunities to understand multiple perspectives about occupational therapy services, including insights from clients and families;
  • Provide extensive clinical and community experiences, well integrated with the academic coursework, which prepare students to practice in urban communities with diverse populations;
  • Foster a sense of responsibility, professionalism and commitment to life-long learning.

Statement of Philosophy

The philosophy underlying the Master of Science Program in Occupational Therapy at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center is that occupational therapy education is a socialization process. This view of occupational therapy education as a socialization process distinguishes a professional curriculum from traditional academic degree programs. In addition to the didactic knowledge transmitted in an academic curriculum, students who participate in a socialization process develop specific skills, values, and attitudes that constitute membership in their new profession. Furthermore, students develop a style of reasoning that reflects core principles in the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework. The ultimate goal of this active, enculturation process is that students develop strong identities as occupational therapists, with a commitment to ethical, evidence-based practice that best serves the needs of their clients.

Professional socialization occurs during three stages: first, formal academic education; then, a period of clinical training (fieldwork); and finally, early work experiences. A variety of participants contribute to the professional socialization process: the students themselves; the socializing agents, or role models; the students' peers; and clients/patients with whom the students interact.  Professional socialization is an active process. Occupational therapy students enter the educational program with previous values and experiences, and they are encouraged to make choices, decisions, and interpretations about the influences to which they are exposed. In addition, the curriculum is designed to capitalize on students' experiences within their own diverse communities, in extra-curricular participation, and in work and volunteer activities. Socializing agents or role models in occupational therapy education are faculty members, guest lecturers, and clinical supervisors. Socializing agents have the most positive influence upon incoming group members when there are ample opportunities for interpersonal contact, when students perceive general consistency among role models, and when students respect the professional competence of their role models.  The close, influential bond that forms between peers in a professional curriculum is an essential part of student learning. This curriculum is designed to provide opportunities for students to collaborate with one another to enhance their professional development.  Finally, clients' expectations of a developing professional will affect a student's image of his or her professional role. Throughout the curriculum, students participate in experiences designed to enhance their understanding of clients' perspectives. During fieldwork and in early work settings, students and recent graduates develop behavioral strategies in response to challenges and expectations presented by clients. This program's integration of Fieldwork I experiences with related course work, as well as the Fieldwork Seminars throughout the curriculum, provides opportunities for students to analyze how their client interactions are influencing their professional development.

Based on the philosophy that occupational therapy education is a professional socialization process, our program is designed to enable students to meet the following goals:

  1. to learn factual content, theories, and skills associated with occupational therapy practice;
  2. to learn behavior patterns and norms associated with occupational therapy practice;
  3. to apply the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework to professional reasoning;
  4. to learn the values and attitudes that characterize the occupational therapy profession;
  5. to apply the philosophical base of occupational therapy
  6. to develop a professional self-image by internalizing the skills, behaviors, values, and philosophy associated with the occupational therapy profession.

Our curriculum is designed to support the philosophical base of the occupational therapy profession, which views participation in meaningful occupations as a critical factor influencing health and quality of life. Consistent with the philosophical base for the profession, our curriculum provides students with the knowledge, skills, and values that are essential for using purposeful activity and occupational engagement as core tools and goals of occupational therapy intervention.

The Occupational Therapy Program at SUNY Downstate holds fundamental beliefs about how adult human beings achieve the socialization goals listed above. First, we believe that learning and socialization are active processes in which students, faculty, role models, peers and clients all play critical roles. Second, the educational process must include opportunities for three types of learning: declarative, procedural, and reflective learning. Declarative learning is the acquisition of knowledge about facts, events and theories. Explicit instruction, in the form of reading, lectures and discussion is effective in promoting declarative learning. Procedural learning, the development of skills and habits, is achieved through an implicit process, in which the individual engages in direct practice and active experiences. Reflective learning, the process of internally examining and exploring issues from multiple perspectives, is achieved through opportunities to consider various "points of view" with regard to scenarios where flexibility and open-minded thinking are critical to successful goal achievement.

Active learning experiences involve real-world challenges, in which students are required to determine appropriate strategies for success. We believe that our students' future effectiveness as occupational therapists is dependent upon providing a balance between explicit instruction, exemplary role models, opportunities for implicit learning, and experiences that help students develop reflective reasoning skills.