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Review of Dr. Kristie Patten's 2022 Eleanor Clark Slagle Lecture: Embracing a Strengths-Based Approach in Occupational Therapy: Transforming Practice, Education, and Research


In the field of occupational therapy, there is a growing recognition of the need for a transformative shift towards a strengths-based model. Dr. Kristie K. Patten's Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture challenges practitioners to reevaluate biases, interrogate existing systems, and prioritize the strengths and abilities of individuals with disabilities. This paradigm shift requires practitioners to embrace vulnerability, curiosity, and a commitment to being better.


Shifting to a strengths-based model in practice, education, and research involves reevaluating current approaches, questioning deficit-based mindsets, and integrating the lived experiences of individuals with disabilities. Practitioners are urged to confront their biases, apologize for past wrongs, and commit to being better by challenging existing norms and designing research that highlights individuals' abilities and strengths.


The implications of adopting a strengths-based approach in occupational therapy for individuals with disabilities are profound. This approach promotes empowerment, acknowledges strengths, and fosters a more inclusive and supportive environment that maximizes the health, well-being, and quality of life for individuals with disabilities. It also emphasizes the importance of centering the voices of historically marginalized groups, designing research that highlights abilities, and considering the relational and cultural aspects of disability.





Incorporating the concept of high- and low-functioning environments into occupational therapy practice involves evaluating the impact of systemic bias, ableism, and discrimination on individuals with disabilities. Practitioners can advocate for the creation of high-functioning environments that promote inclusion and accessibility, address barriers present in low-functioning environments, and collaborate with other professionals to create fully integrated settings.


Occupational therapy practitioners can take several actions to confront ableism and commit to being better. This includes apologizing for past wrongs, acknowledging biases, actively listening to disabled individuals, and centering their voices in practice, research, and teaching. By embracing vulnerability, rethinking, and curiosity, practitioners can contribute to a more inclusive, empowering, and compassionate future for individuals with disabilities.


In the words of Dr. Patten, "Be willing to be wrong, be curious, be better—and you get to decide how and what matters." This powerful statement encapsulates the essence of the strengths-based approach advocated in her lecture. It challenges practitioners to embrace a mindset of curiosity and openness, confront biases, and commit to being better in their practice, education, and research.


Overall, the shift to a strengths-based model in occupational therapy requires practitioners to confront their biases, commit to being better, and take actions such as apologizing for past wrongs. It involves a constant back-and-forth between ideas and research results, challenging biases, and embracing humility to reconsider past commitments, doubt to question present decisions, and curiosity to imagine future plans. By embracing vulnerability, rethinking, and curiosity, occupational therapy practitioners can meet the changing needs of society and contribute to a more inclusive and empowering environment for individuals with disabilities.

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