by Kay Dallal, MSOT OTR/L
To investigate the manner of approach to the concept of spirituality in occupational therapy education programs in the U.S., program directors were questioned regarding philosophy and mission statements, curriculum content, pedagogical methods, attitudes towards the subject of spirituality, and religious affiliation of their institution.
A survey was developed and sent to 131 program directors of educational programs for entry level occupational therapy students. Fifty-three percent (n = 70) of surveys were returned. Responses were analyzed as to quantitative and qualitative information.
Significant variations were found between type and affiliation of school with regard to contextual questions such as philosophy or mission statements, inclusion of complementary or alternative medicine tracks of study, addressing the spiritual context, and inclusion of concepts of body, mind, and spirit. A large majority of schools reported that they had a definition of spirituality (78%) and that they addressed the holistic aspects of occupational therapy (73%). Methods of approaching the subject of spirituality were primarily lecture and discussion and the mean number of hours spent on the topic was 7.1. The importance attached to its inclusion in educational programs was very high. In fact, the majority of program directors (70%) agreed that the subject should be a required topic of study and included in accreditation standards.
A clear consensus is developing about reclaiming spirituality as a domain worthy of inclusion in OT educational programs—even to the extent of having the concept of spirituality become a required element for accreditation of programs. A working definition of spirituality may be achievable in the U.S. given that a surprising majority of OT programs claim to have one already.