Faculty | 5/19/2024

How OTs Make Daily Routines the Foundation for Wellness

By Jennifer Persons


In the 14th episode of the MCPHS Bicentennial Podcast, The Secret to Living to 200, Dr. Douglas Simmons discusses the rapid evolution of occupational therapy and the discipline’s focus on wellness.

Occupational therapy (OT) was created just over 100 years ago to increase the activity levels of institutionalized patients. Today, OT remains true to its roots, while incorporating emerging technologies and treatments, using activities to improve patients’ physical and mental health.

As an occupational therapist, Douglas Simmons, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, has treated patients recovering from traumatic illnesses, established community wellness programs, and trained the next generation of providers. In this episode, he explains how establishing healthy routines and practicing mindfulness with patients helps them find wellness in every aspect of their lives.

Listen to Episode 14 and every episode of The Secret to Living to 200 on our Bicentennial website or anywhere you get your podcasts.

Three Things to Know About Occupational Therapy:

1. It was established in 1917 as a “work cure.”

A psychiatrist, an architect, a social worker, a nurse, a secretary, and a physician came together to create a new healthcare discipline for institutionalized patients who were not active during the day. They found that people who are active, have a sense of purpose, and maintain a routine tend to be healthier. They called it a “work cure,” which became occupational therapy. Today, OTs still focus on activities to help patients thrive through daily life.

2. Its focus is patients’ overall wellness.

Leaning into its roots, modern OT interventions are implemented to help a patient be well. Therapists are responsible for helping patients complete tasks they need, want, or are expected to do. This includes everything from getting out of bed to exercising. Dr. Simmons explains it’s an OTs job to break down these tasks, step-by-step, so the patient can live their life as independently as possible.

3. Virtual reality motivates patients to do their therapy.

Dr. Simmons says virtual reality has proven to be a very effective tool for therapists. First, it motivates patients to complete their therapy because they can do so with games and other interactive simulations. Second, it can help patients, especially those who have been through a traumatic experience, leave reality behind, even for a moment. MCPHS trains students to treat patients with virtual reality, which has been implemented at research-focused health institutions across the country.