Can I Start Occupational Therapy School with a Psychology Degree?


Written by Alisha Kriss


First, I’ll start by introducing myself and mentioning my educational background. My name is Alisha Kriss, and I received my Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Second, I wanted to thank Mike Mead for allowing me to share my viewpoints regarding the relationship between Psychology and the profession of Occupational Therapy.

I am not sure how familiar everybody is with the profession of Occupational Therapy, but typically, people either think we focus on hands, or that we help people find jobs (because of the term, ‘occupation’). This may be a surprise, but we actually are trained to do much more than that! I have discovered an easier way to think about the term ‘occupation,’ rather than thinking of it as another word for ‘job’ or ‘profession.’ We, as occupational therapists, focus on anything and everything that occupies a person’s time. We are trained to use a holistic perspective to assess how any disability, injury, or illness may be affecting individuals in their everyday life. A holistic perspective is non-judgmental and is interested in assessing multiple perspectives of an idea without presenting judgment. Does this sound familiar to anyone with a Psychology background? Well, it sounded familiar to me when I began Occupational Therapy school! I immediately realized that I had the talents and resources to implement this type of thinking with my clients, and it has been truly beneficial while working in the field. Because of my Psychology background, I am able to interpret individual behavior, respond appropriately, and help individuals feel comfortable in an open and non-threatening environment. Therefore, I can quickly build therapeutic relationships with my clients, and we can immediately begin working together towards maximizing their independence and safety post injury or disability.

An interesting fact that people may not realize about Occupational Therapy is that its history actually originates with mental health. Over a century ago, the profession of Occupational Therapy was established upon the belief of more humane conditions and treatments of individuals with mental illnesses (Christiansen & Haertl, 2014). Since then, occupational therapists have worked to develop and perfect treatment interventions for this population. Occupational therapists embody extensive knowledge of the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional barriers that interfere with everyday life for people with mental illnesses. Exemplifying a non-judgmental perspective is imperative while working in any healthcare field, especially when you are working with individuals in their most vulnerable state. If you have the talents to exemplify holistic and non-judgmental thinking from your Psychology background, and have a passion to help individuals gain their lives back after an injury or disability, then Occupational Therapy may be the right profession for you!

Christiansen, C.H., & Haertl, K. (2014). A contextual history of occupational therapy. In B.A. Schell, G. Gillen, & M.E. Scaffa (Eds.), Willard and spackman’s occupational therapy (12th ed.) (pp. 9-34). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.


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