Hello, friends and Happy Saturday! I hope you have been enjoying my mini-blog series, Occupational Therapy Speaks, each week delving into the world of OT a bit more through the lens of current OT students! The next person I have for you today on the blog is my good friend Matthew. I met Matthew in one of my human development classes in undergrad — little did I know he was also an aspiring OT like myself. We were always put in the same group discussions and I always admired him because he inquisitively challenged the perspectives of our group discussions. We’ve been able to maintain a supportive relationship with one another through our check-ins where we spill all things OT and life. We were meant to reconnect after undergrad because now we all get to hear more about his beautiful perspective on OT!
Irene: What are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!
Matthew: Matthew Kawakami (he/him/his). I am a 2nd Year OT student at SJSU. I am from the Bay Area in California. Some of my favorite occupations are watching YouTube, running, slacklining, and researching pop music statistics.
Irene: Why OT? Tell us a little bit about how you found OT and what got you into this field.
Matthew: I first found out about OT when I was doing a high school project. I had to present about an interesting career path and chose OT. I watched a few videos of pediatric OT and it looked super fun! Then in college one of my friends told they were interested in OT. Talking to her made me want to see what OT was like. After observing pediatric occupational therapists in person, OT seemed like a career that fit many of my interests. I wanted to work with people, I did not want to work sitting in an office, and I liked learning about both the human body and psychology. To be honest, I did not fully understand what occupational therapy entailed until I started OT school. Now that I am almost done with the academic portion of my program, I like that OT prioritizes the client’s agency, I like the breadth of the field (many different settings, populations, and diagnoses) and I like that I get to be creative.
Irene: Choose three words that come to mind when you think of “OT”. Define each word in its relationship to OT. Why did you choose these three words?
Dignity – OTs help clients maintain their dignity as their level of functioning changes. OT is about meeting the client where they are and helping them do what is important to them.
Context – OT helps clients in a way that is relevant to their context/life. OT is not copy and paste. It is understanding what a client needs as a whole person based on their social, physical, and cultural environment.
Problematic-Fave – I love OT, but I know that OT is not perfect. I love that OT is client-centered, but I also know that OT has a lot room to grow when it comes to properly addressing anti-blackness and ableism within the field. I think it is important to acknowledge the problems in order to help something you love become even better.
Irene: What is the most beautiful thing about OT to you?
Matthew: I like the idea of being client-centered and understanding that our purpose is to improve the client’s quality of life according to the client. I think the medical system can focus on telling the client what they need to do, but I like that OTs listen to the client and ask what do you need? (I think one of my professors told me this line in class).
Irene: What are your plans for the future of OT? How do you want to revolutionize the field of OT in the future?
Matthew: My plan right now is to graduate and finish my fieldwork level II placements. After that, I am not sure what the future holds, but we shall see. I hope that I can be a part of the movement to help diversify OT, and increase access for groups traditionally disenfranchised due to race, class, disability, etc. I also hope I can be a part of the change to make OT spaces safer and more supportive for Black, Brown, and disabled students, practitioners, and clients.
Irene: Can folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!
Irene: Anything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below!
Matthew: Thanks to Irene for asking me to share!
Matthew, thank YOU so much for sharing! OT as a problematic-fave – I FELT THAT ONE HEAVY. That is a great descriptor. Though I am also with you in terms of loving all things OT, I also acknowledge and stand by the amount of work that needs to be done in this field to be as inclusive as it aspires to be. That is why advocacy is huge and awareness/promotion early on is so important. I think as we challenge our own internalized biases and -isms, we will continue to be the transformative change that is necessary to make OT thrive even more. I am happy to hear that you are almost done with the academic portion of your curriculum! An OT in the making is among us!
Thank you once again, Renrenspeakers, for tuning into the blog today. I hope this interview gave you another perspective on what OT is all about. Stay tuned for the NEXT lovely OT that I will be highlighting next WEEKEND for Part 5 of my Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series!
Peace and light,