By Jolie Koesters | Therapy News

Amanda Vander Wiel, Doctor of Occupational Therapy

When you are faced with barriers in life due to disability, injury or illness, an occupational therapist is the person who will ask “What matters to you?” instead of “What’s the matter with you?”

In its simplest terms, occupational therapists (OTs) and certified occupational therapy assistants (COTAs) help people do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of occupations. [“Occupations” in this sense are the ordinary yet meaningful activities we perform everyday that add value to our lives and allow us to perform our daily routines and roles.]

What I love about occupational therapy

I love the person-centered, functional approach occupational therapists take when examining a patient’s struggles. A shoulder injury can cause physical pain or limit motion On a personal, more emotional level, it can also steal joy and satisfaction from daily living.

It is no fun when it is a challenge to dress yourself every morning or play with children or grandchildren when you don’t have the necessary range of pain-free movement in your shoulder. Pain affects not just the body, but also a person’s mind and spirit.

On a practical level, occupational therapists evaluate what people struggle with and find ways to adapt the environment or task to fit the person.

How occupational therapy improves lives

When my patients first seek me out, they’re usually struggling with the kind of pain that affects how they function in their daily lives. This can include anything from gardening and playing golf to simply opening a door or climbing stairs. For others, it is a matter of maintaining their livelihood so they can perform certain work-related tasks.

I start with an initial evaluation to determine symptoms and set goals. After a detailed examination, I am able to establish a baseline function as a starting point. Based on the desired goals, the patient and I create a comprehensive treatment plan with a defined timeline so they can get back to living their best life.

A gratifying experience

There is nothing like seeing the joy on a patient’s face when they’ve regained the skills that allow them to do the things they’ve been missing out on — the enjoyable things which give purpose to their lives, but also the basic, necessary things that allow them to remain independent and functional.

I feel such satisfaction when a patient follows up with me to report they are now able to complete an important task without pain.  I have seen so many patients return to happy, productive lifestyles.

Little things mean a lot

People take for granted how much they use their hands every day. One of my specialties is hand therapy. The hand is amazingly complex and well-designed. It is fascinating to unravel its intricacies.

When I was in graduate school, my professor challenged our class spend the entire day wearing socks on both our hands. It was eye-opening how debilitating limited hand mobility can be. I remember feeling so frustrated because I couldn’t even turn a doorknob. The simplest tasks were suddenly a big deal. I am grateful for that experience. Now when I treat my patients, I can understand to a degree what they are going through.

As OT professionals, my peers and I share a passion for helping people of all ages maintain health and live better with injury, illness, or disability. At Española Sports Medicine, our patients are an integral part of the therapy team.

If you’re struggling with pain, injury or disability, we can help you live life to its fullest. To schedule an appointment with Amanda Vander Wiel and the OT team at Española Sports Medicine, call 505-753-6550.



April 21, 2021