Occupational Therapy: A New Program at Saint-Joseph University of Beirut

Carla Matta Abizeid, Ph.D., Associate Professor; Saint Joseph University, Occupational therapy Institute, Innovation and Sports Campus (CIS), Damascus road, BP 11-5076, Riad el Solh, Beirut 1107 2050, Lebanon. E-mails: carla.abizeid@usj.edu.lb;

Occupational therapy (OT) is a necessary and distinct rehabilitation profession that is still emerging in Lebanon. Occupational therapists have to assert and promote their value as well as tailor their approaches to the specific needs, realities, and cultures of the Lebanese community. The Occupational Therapy Institute (Institut d’ergothérapie - IET), in partnership with University of Montréal, is proud to participate in this complex endeavor using pedagogical approaches that ensure that their graduates have both the knowledge and the skills to move the profession forward.

The New Contribution by Université Saint-Joseph

In recognizing the need for greater and improved occupational therapy services, the Saint Joseph University’s Faculty of Medicine has created the second occupational therapy program in Lebanon in collaboration with the University of Montreal. The IET welcomed its first cohort in September 2016. The IET’s mission is to provide an educational experience that is competency-based and draws on pedagogical approaches that are supported by evidence (Dole, Bloom, & Kowalske, 2015). It also aims to promote excellence and innovation within the profession.

The new USJ OT License Program aims to update occupational therapy practice in an evidence-based occupational paradigm that is complementary to the biomedical model. The program is based on a skills-based approach and the added value of the OT program at Saint-Joseph University is the use of Problem-Based Learning (PBL). PBL facilitates and empowers students to apply knowledge to new situations. Students are faced with contextualized, ill-structured problems, and are asked to investigate, discover and justify meaningful solutions. (Duch, Groh & Allen, 2001).

What is Occupational Therapy?

OT is a healthcare profession that helps people of all ages accomplish their daily activities as a therapeutic medium to enable their clients to live their lives in an independent and autonomous manner, no matter what injury, illness or disability may be preventing them from doing so. When people are not able to accomplish their occupations because of an accident, a pathology, a handicap…, when they’re not satisfied with the way they’re doing them, or when environmental barriers exist, occupational therapy allows them to find different ways to be able to live their life to its fullest and to be satisfied with the way they accomplish their occupations.

Why Would I Need Occupational Therapy?

When you experience an accident or a health condition, your occupations may be hindered and disrupted. For example, arthritis may make the easiest activities, such as getting dressed, difficult because of the pain it causes. Cognitive impacts, such as in Alzheimer’s disease, may affect memory and organizational skills, which can impede elders from staying at home safely. Mental health issues may prevent people from interacting effectively with others, and thus cause them to encounter many barriers when looking for a job or living on their own. OT enables people so that they are able to engage in, and accomplish the occupations that are meaningful and important to them.

In short, an occupational therapist will keep intervention focused on your needs and your values and allow you to fulfill your occupational goals no matter your health condition, disability, or risk factors.

Where Do Occupational Therapists Work?

Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings including:

  • Home and Community: Home care, private practices, health boards, community mental health centers, clinics, etc.
  • Institutions: Hospitals, rehabilitation centers, mental health institutions, correctional institutions, recreation centers, schools, universities and colleges, and research centers.
  • Industry and business: Corporations, rehabilitation companies, insurance companies, and architectural firms.
  • Government: All levels of government advising in the areas of health promotion, disability prevention/management, accessibility, vocational/health planning, and international rehabilitation program development.

What About Occupational Therapy In Lebanon?

Occupational therapy as a profession dates back to the first World War (Meyer, 1922). It is an evidence-based rehabilitation discipline which aims to promote the health of individuals and groups, as well as their participation in society, through the use of occupations and activities as both a “medium for action and outcome” (Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, 2012, p. 2). In Lebanon, the institutional history of occupational therapy is relatively new. The first occupational therapy program practitioners graduated from the Lebanese University in 2001, and policy (Law 208) governing the right to practice has been in place since 2012 (Matta Abizeid, 2016).

The current need for occupational therapy services for Lebanese individuals with disabilities and their families is indisputable (Ghoussoub, El Hage, Moustapha, Moussa, Ibrahim & Nassour, 2015). Yet, given the infancy of the profession, and its governing policies, the role and practice settings of occupational therapists in Lebanon remain relatively restricted. There are, nevertheless, localized efforts to expand the potential of occupational therapists vis-à-vis clients who would benefit from their services (e.g. Souraya, 2013). It is not just the role of occupational therapists that remains to be developed, but perhaps more foundationally, what is needed is a critical approach to reflecting on a culturally relevant occupational therapy philosophy (Iwama, 2006). As occupation-based models and theories are being imported from other countries, their uptake into the Lebanese context provides both the possibility of mistranslations into practice, as well as the opportunity for creative re-interpretations and critiques.

The curriculum

The curriculum at the IET is a double-pronged program: the academic goal oriented towards mastering scientific skills in acquisition and research, and the professional goal oriented towards the clinical competencies of care and rehabilitation. Emphasis is placed on the practical learning of rehabilitation and readjustment approaches. A large part focuses on analyzing interactions between the person, his occupation and the environment in order to work towards optimal autonomy.

The occupational therapy curriculum aims to develop skills to answer the health, independence, and quality of life needs of people in the context of work in an interprofessional environment.

The purpose of the occupational therapists' training repository is to professionalize the student's path, which progressively builds the elements of his / her competence through the acquisition of knowledge and skills, attitudes and behaviors in the occupational therapy setting.

The student is led to become an autonomous, responsible and reflective practitioner, that is to say, a professional able to analyze any situation related to health, make decisions within the limits of his role and lead interventions alone and in an interprofessional team or call on the most competent person. He develops resources in theoretical and methodological knowledge, gestural skills and interpersonal skills. He builds his portfolio of skills and prepares his professional project. He learns to recognize his emotions and use them with the required professional distance. He develops his critical and questioning ability. He develops professional ethics allowing him to make informed decisions and act with autonomy and responsibility in the field of his function, respecting the rules of the deontology.

Exercised in clinical reasoning and critical reflection, the trained professional is competent, able to quickly integrate new knowledge and knows how to adapt to various situations.

Admission

  • Early admission: on file study
  • Regular admission: by entrance exam

Duration of studies

  • Duration of studies: 4 years
  • Number of credits: 240 credits
Program taught in:
  • English

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Last updated February 7, 2019
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