Thursday, 22 March 2018

My Love-Hate Relationship with Occupational Therapy

I've wondered whether to write this. It might not do so well for my book, but I need to get these feelings out. So here it goes.

I have a love-hate relationship with occupational therapy. I love the theory behind the profession.

On paper and in the books it sounds like an incredible profession.

And then — reality comes in to play.

Please note, some of the gripes here pertain to my work experience in Israel. However, I have worked in 4 different countries and some problems sadly are not isolated to Israel.

Bullying in the workplace

In many facilities I have worked in I have been bullied. Further down in the article you will see how this happened in Israel. But I have experiences bullying in the workplace in 3 of the 4 countries I have worked in.

I used to think it was something against me but a few months ago I came across an online course teaching about the high statistics of bullying in the workplace experienced by OTs. I was sad to read the high percentage of OTs who leave the profession or even this world due to how they are treated at work.

The pay is nothing to write home about. Perhaps if you trained in the US and work in the US, you can earn enough but I am talking enough to own your own home and have some life to yourself.

Demands on your time

The demands of the profession are way too high. It takes over your life. With constant continuing education, reading to keep up with the profession, attending meetings, attending conferences, being available for meetings at the drop of a hat, with no prior warning. You can end up with NO life of your own.

Let's face it, I did OT to please my grandfather and the career guidance counsellor, with the goal being to earn me enough to have the time and freedom to do my art. OT has not given me that.

Sharing some of the problems

When I first began developing a photographic service, together with my husband, I was working part-time in two special-ed pre-schools. I was expected to be available for a meeting whenever the staff wanted it. With no prior notice or opportunity for planning. No warning, you were just expected to drop everything and run to the meeting. They had no respect for any appointments or clients I had arranged in what was supposed to be my own time. Paperwork was expected to be carried out in my time, at home, on my computer. They did not care that the computer I use is actually my husband's, and he earns via the computer. The demands for reports were very lengthy and detailed taking up hours upon hours of my time. All work carried out outside of the hours stated in the interview, they refuse to give a written contract, was unpaid work. This written work prevented my husband the opportunity to work either.

At one group of schools I worked in, I was instructed to sign a document agreeing to their dress code even in my time and on vacation time. I'm sorry, I am not a slave. I dress modestly and professionally but I have a right to choose my clothing, myself.

A developmental clinic badgered me, repeatedly to change my head covering in order to show part of my hair. That is just ludicrous! If my head covering meets the requirements given by Torah law, it is not for any place of work to insist that I alter that. I have a right to follow my beliefs. They would not dream of doing that to an Arab or a dark-skinned native from Africa who wears a head covering. Never. So why to a Jew, living in a Jewish country?

This same place of work that did not like my covering my hair,  altered the agreement of how many clients I would receive. Of course, they only paid per client I worked with, even if I was at work and working for longer hours. Of course while not respecting me enough to pay me, they gave me the complex clients. They maintained that they could not afford to pay me for more hours. How can that be when the health insurance companies here or Kupat Cholim in Hebrew paid them per client. If they had a problem with their finances, they had no right to take on a second OT and then refuse to pay said second OT. The right way for them to manage their facility would be to stick to one OT and pay her honestly, in full and on time.

Working conditions

My next gripe is working conditions. OT talks about the environment and working conditions having an impact on one's health. Yet, most interviews I have been to have asked if I can work under pressure and with a heavy workload that usually means you have to magically treat more clients than is humanly possible. As to the treatment rooms themselves, if you read my book you will find out some of my issues with these facilities.

So OT is an absolutely incredible profession, in theory. It promises so much. But my work experience has been that it will not provide a salary that is enough to purchase a home and have stability. With 42 moves behind me and about to face my 43rd, I can honestly say that no-one should ever work for a salary that will not give them stability.

The totally unrealistic expectations and demands on one's personal time also prevent one from being able to nurture who you are as a human being. All giving with no reserves is a sure recipe for burn out and failure.

Would I recommend working as an OT in Israel?


I have had some ask me if I recommend OT as a profession in Israel. So here comes the truth. No, no I would not recommend anyone to become an OT in Israel. You deserve to be treated with respect. You deserve to be paid with respect. No-one should EVER, EVER be paid 390 for a full month working 6 days a week, full school days. There is absolutely no excuse for such treatment. No-one working in a salaried job should ever have to request to be paid.  Neither should they be fired and treated like dirt for having to seek help from an organization to ensure they are paid. Keeping in mind that the organization to help new immigrants informed me that withholding the salary is illegal.

No-one working 6 days a week should have to go and ask their bank manager for a loan and then put up with being told that it is not possible. According to the bank, the place of work has to pay on time and the bank won't help with a loan or overdraft to make up for dishonest places of work. What is the answer? Do NOT work in these facilities. If ALL OTs refuse to work in such conditions the facilities will have to shape up and begin to treat their workers with the respect they rightly deserve.

You deserve to be paid enough to put down a deposit on a home and have stability in your life. You deserve to have fulfilment in your own life, not to be a slave to a system that is corrupt. This includes time to you.

If I were doing my search for a career all over again, one of my questions would most definitely be, what is the earning potential of this career. If I knew over 30 years ago how hard it would be to have anyone understand what my profession is or how hard it is to earn enough to live, I would most definitely put my money into a different profession.

So now you have it out in the open. OT is an incredible profession but there is major work required for it to be recognized enough that OTs can be paid appropriately so that they can live the kind of lifestyle we recommend to our clients. To me, helping a client to improve work conditions while your own work conditions have a negative impact on your health is - hypocritical.

Yes, there is such a notion of working privately, provided the clients pay properly and with respect. I am really tired of the crazy notion that everything is negotiable or that I have to be prepared to offer my services for a minimum wage or as a kindness. I'm very, very sorry! There are expenses involved in working privately and there are expenses involved in offering a top quality service and I have a right to be paid honestly according to what the going rate is. Not only do I have a right but every OT working privately has that same right too. Demanding reduction in fees is totally inappropriate.

It's hard. I'm finding it hard. OT has got into my blood. It's hard to stop thinking as an OT. But it does not provide the kind of income I need to live. I can not keep moving and I simply refuse to be a slave. Aside from that, I am really, really tired of having to constantly explain what OT actually is. For heaven's sake, people, grow up and read up on the profession and start treating health professionals with the respect that they deserve.


  1. Hi.Nice to read this honesty of article.
    This situation of OT is no less than many place across Globe.A profession so rich definitely deserves a respectful recognition.

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