Virginia (Ginny) Stoffel; Coming Home to Family: Now Is the Time!. Am J Occup Ther 2016;70(6):7006120010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.706003
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
Family is a metaphor for the connectedness that occupational therapy practitioners and students feel for one another, for the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), and toward those served. Exploring values and cultural practices that emanate from family experiences affects how we practice occupational therapy and engage with families; how we serve and lead; and how, as the profession approaches its 100th anniversary in the United States, we strengthen AOTA by welcoming all 213,000 practitioners and students who could become active, engaged members. The heartfelt connections experienced across our worldwide occupational therapy communities, giving support and nurturance to those who show promise, breaking down barriers and creating community as extended family, creating a sense of home and belonging, encouraging participation, and building excellence, strengthen the AOTA family. AOTA Vision 2025 serves as a means to facilitate the profession's future, where health, well-being, and quality of life are the outcomes of effective occupational therapy.
What she always valued most about being an OT was that personal connection. . . . You OTs do seem to be unusual in your focus on the whole family, and in our case, on people that all you really know about is that your friend really loved them. I think that focus on maximizing life and the importance of family is why Jane loved occupational therapy.
Sometimes people think of the members of AOTA as “we” and the organization of AOTA as “they,” and when that happens, power struggles and challenges build. As a leader, think of AOTA and its members as “we,” and the profession will build constructively. Don’t allow a wall to keep the organization from changing, being shaped by members who serve as leaders.
Your kindness, generosity, and words of encouragement did not go unnoticed. Our program has recently made many great changes, and our primary focus is to get as involved with AOTA, our community, and our profession as possible. This conference turned out to be a great start toward reaching our goal, and it was an indescribable feeling to have that be recognized by our very own chief professional affairs officer! My fellow classmates and I are still ecstatic about your generous Twitter posts. That alone was an amazing boost of confidence and has already encouraged students to get more involved with future events. . . . We thank you for showing us what joining the AOTA family and the world of occupational therapy is truly about!
For the past 8 years, I’ve regularly seen these people 3 times per year and talked with at least one of them weekly. I’ve essentially grown up with them. The smiles, laughs, tears, memories, and activities are too many to share here. They are family to me. I cannot express just how much you all mean to me, how much you’ve taught me, inspired me, led me, and pushed me. I would never have gone back to school without your inspiration and push, would never have experienced the confidence to run for treasurer, would never have learned how to be a strong, engaged occupational therapy assistant without you all.
Therapists who are aware that families play a different, and often more intimate, role in therapy, and that including them when it is culturally appropriate may lead to a more successful and satisfying outcome, often view families as collaborators and assistants rather than adversaries or barriers to overcome. (p. 14)
It is within families that we learn how to be in the world—how to understand and interact with the world and the people around us. Families provide the context for learning the beliefs, values, attitudes, and customs that guide much of our lives. We learn how to be occupational beings in and through families—or by reference to ideas about families when they are absent from our lives. Although there are other influences on our lives, for most people families continue to be important throughout their lives, whether or not they are physically or emotionally accessible. Families can be a source of both support and frustration and problems. They are a cultural universal and a cultural icon. (p. 489)
Familial interactions and the roles played by family members are influenced by many factors influenced by culture, including perceptions of health, illness, disability, normality, expectations about the role, and the rights and responsibilities of all the people involved. . . . If therapists are to address the needs of the clients or families with whom they work, they must keep culture in mind with all clients or families. (Fitzgerald, 2004, p. 495)
My University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee family—faculty, students, and staff—who share me with you
My family and friends who were able to join us today—my husband Bob; our son Eric; Nicole and Adam; and Brian, Ali, and Lucy, who are attending via the Internet
My six sisters, Sue, Maureen, Kathie, Angel, Betsy, and Annie, and two brothers, Matt and Tom
My book club friends who are attending their 4th AOTA conference, Carol and Martha, and Lynn and Lane, who are here for the first time
My Stoffel family, Sheila and Sally, who are here today, and especially my sister-in-law, Cindy, whose photography enriches many of my presentations.
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