Occupational Therapy Students Gain Hands-On Experience

Cassidy Leslie (left), Triumph IIP Clincial Director, poses with PNWU students and Dr. Jennifer Pitonyak (right)

The Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences (PNWU) School of Occupational Therapy has recently partnered with Triumph in response to Washington state’s lack of Occupational Therapists (OTs) staffed in community-based behavioral health settings. OT services center around the ability to participate meaningfully in occupations (health management, leisure, work, social participation, activities of daily living, community navigation, and sleep and rest, etc.). The “doing” of occupation is believed to be transformative, promoting adaptation, creating personal and social identifiers, connecting people to their communities, and enabling ongoing personal growth and development—all of which can help support behavioral health recovery.

Professor Jennifer Pitonyak, an occupational therapist with extensive experience working with infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome and their parents in recovery, leads the collaboration.  Dr. Pitonyak is working with Triumph to develop services that provide life-management, socio-emotional and parenting skills for pregnant and parenting women and their children while they receive residential treatment for substance use disorders.

She is excited to bring occupational therapy to this program where “providing therapy for the skills, routines, and activities of the occupation of “parent” is significant for clients’ recovery process.”

In addition to providing OT services that address clients’ role of parent, the new program will provide tools for establishing important self-care, leisure, household management, healthcare management and promotion, and other occupational routines.

This new partnership also serves as a clinical education site for PNWU’s OT students as they gain authentic, firsthand learning experience which will increase their awareness of the importance of mental health and substance use screening and prepare them to work in a variety of settings.

After attending and observing existing recovery programming at Triumph, Dr. Pitonyak and PNWU students plan to schedule a weekly opportunity for new OT referrals and evaluations, as well as offer one-on-one sessions available to all clients in Triumph’s Pregnant and Parenting Women’s program which will provide treatment for occupation-related goals established in those initial evaluations.The plan includes expanding OT services to James Oldham Treatment Center over the next year and evaluating other areas of Triumph’s collaborations with community partners where OT services could enhance the recovery process.

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