School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Yoon Kwon

Yoon Kwon, MSc(OT)

Yoon Kwon

Lee Rosen, MSc(OT)

"Occupational Therapy is emerging as a unique field in Canada."

By Filza Naveed

18 December 2014

Occupational therapy (OT) is emerging as a unique field in Canada. The Queen’s University School of Rehabilitation Therapy website describes OT as a “rehabilitation discipline that promotes health through enabling occupation. Occupation consists of a balance between the three spheres of self-care, productivity and leisure. Occupational therapists work primarily with people with disabilities.” These disabilities can be mental, physical or developmental.

Lee Rosen and Yoon Kwon are two recent OT graduates from Queen’s University who offer insight into this unique field, and discuss the lessons they learned along the way. They also offer advice for future students who wish to pursue a degree within the holistic field of Occupational Therapy.

“Yoon and I just completed our Masters degree in OT. We started in September 2012 and we graduated in November 2014. In Canada, if you want to become an Occupational Therapist, you must complete a Master’s degree in OT and complete a national certification exam. The Queen’s program is unique and consists of academic courses as well as clinical placements. You don’t just learn about the body, the environment and people’s activities of daily living, but also about therapeutic rehabilitation,” says Rosen.

He explains that the Queen’s OT program offers three clinical placements that are approximately eight weeks longs along with a fourth placement which consists of community development- a component that is unique to the Queen’s OT program. The community development component enables a relationship building process, strengthening the community’s potential and creating respect and equity. 

“What I enjoyed about the program at Queen’s is that they emphasized the importance of building a therapeutic relationship with your clients and working as a team with other healthcare professionals. Collaboration is a big keyword in our field and we learn this by working in teams of six people throughout the academic year. Collaboration amongst team members as well as clients is also very strongly emphasized not only by our program but also by our professional governing bodies,” adds Kwon.

According to Rosen, the program’s collaborative component involves not only working within the OT department, but also taking courses within other streams in the health sciences department including physiotherapy, medicine, nursing and clinical psychology. This enables teamwork and interaction with students from other backgrounds.

Both Rosen and Kwon feel that their work experiences while pursuing their undergraduates degrees, paved the way for an MSc in OT.

“I was pursuing my undergraduate degree in Kinesiology at Simon Fraser University and I sort of learnt about this unique field while working with autistic children. I didn’t know what OT was until that point. I felt that what I was studying in undergrad fit nicely with OT as well. I came to Ontario because I wanted to learn in a new environment and the program was more than I expected it to be,” says Kwon.

For Rosen, who was studying Life Sciences and Psychology during his undergraduate degree at McMaster University, volunteering at the cardiac rehabilitation wing allowed him to meet many interdisciplinary healthcare professionals. Many of these professionals were working in the diverse field of Occupational Therapy.

“Meeting these OTs opened my eyes to a multitude of career possibilities. I realized that there was a unique field in healthcare that was so different from the rest. It also offered me a way to apply my interpersonal skills and to view everything from a different lens. Contrary to other healthcare professionals, occupational therapists work with people by looking at them holistically. They try to understand them as individuals and look at the environment that they are in, and what they want to do with their occupations so as to help them succeed in life. Queen’s was my top choice as it has a great reputation for its OT program. I was also attracted to Kingston because of its rich history,” he says.

He also adds that one of the big perks of the OT program at Queen’s is how it offers one the opportunity for academic learning as well as hands on experience. He recalls one course that specifically stood out for him.

“We had a Lived Experience course in our first year. It had a lot to do with self-reflection and understanding someone’s experience. We would have a mentor from the community with a mental or physical disability. We would have the opportunity to interact with them, and understand how they live their daily life given their condition,” he says.

Students in the MSc OT program are also put into diverse placement settings, allowing them to gain exposure to real world OT practices, and adapt themselves to a variety of different environments.

“The OT teaching staff try their best to ensure that each student gets placed in a diverse setting so that he/she can get exposure to the OT field. I’ve worked in physical, mental and private rehab and I believe that each setting allowed me to gain a different type of experience and I learned that I can adapt to different settings,” says Kwon.  

For students like Rosen, who have a passion for travelling, there is the opportunity to go abroad and learn to apply their OT skills. He had the opportunity to go to Tanzania where he worked at a youth centre for street children and learned how to apply his OT skills in a new environment.

“Being able to effectively and respectfully communicate is especially important when going to a different country. You have to keep an open mind. The role of an OT is not known there as in Canada and it was a rewarding learning opportunity,” he says.

He adds that OT is a growing field that addresses the needs of the community. He emphasizes that the uniqueness of the field lies in its interdisciplinary approach towards advocacy that doesn’t just look at mental and physical health but also considers the environment and meaningful occupations. His advice to aspiring students hoping to get into the field is to be open to new possibilities and to seize such opportunities when they do arise.

Kwon agrees and feels that the OT program caters to people from diverse backgrounds

“I would advise people to play to their individual strengths. Be open to challenges. Being a therapist in this field is a life learning process so be prepared for that and enjoy the process. Never stay stagnant,” she says with a smile.