About Us


The Occupational Therapy Program of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will provide cutting-edge, student-centered instruction that prepares practitioners to assume the roles of life-long learners, innovators, leaders and change agents in the state, nation, and world communities.  Additionally the program will be locally recognized as an authority and primary source for occupational therapy information and services.


The fundamental mission of the department of occupational therapy supports the mission of UTRGV and College of Health Affairs by preparing graduate level professionals capable of meeting the challenges of health care and community environments, and the unique needs of the growing international and multi-cultural populations of the south Texas region.  Faculty and students engage in and promote scholarly inquiry and service which support the health and wellness of the community.  The preservation, transmission, and creation of knowledge result in exemplary and caring practice.


The UTRGV Department of Occupational Therapy’s philosophy is guided by three major areas.  These areas are occupation and the occupational being, the health continuum, and the influence of culture.

Occupation, “making lives, making worlds” (Peloquin, 1997), is our primary conceptual framework.  Occupation gives organization to life, provides life meaning, and influences health.  Occupational performance engages the whole person, is reflective of mind, body, and spirit, and impacts relationships, culture and society.  Human occupation is defined as “doing culturally meaningful work, play or daily living tasks in the stream of time and in the contexts of one’s physical and social world” (Kielhofner, 1995, p.3).  The individual is viewed as an occupational being throughout the life span and within the context of culture.  To be true to the complexity of human beings one must look at them as multidimensional systems integrating mind, body, and spirit, who are inherently healthy, and live on a continuum from wellness to disability.  Occupation is essential to health and life itself.

The health continuum of individuals within communities also shapes the community.  Life transitions may be illness, disability, retirement, moving from school to work, disasters, or living through other life events. Focusing on the health issues of the community, and groups within a community, will lead to health and life satisfaction through engagement in occupation. Occupation facilitates organization of systems toward improved health for individuals and communities.  Occupational Therapy can help to shape community systems in such a way that the quality of life is improved for the community as a whole.  For example, addressing the issue of unemployment as a common basis for homelessness, might address deficits in local policies as well as issues of social justice.  “The idea of occupation as explicated by the curriculum would enable patient-agents and others to receive essential services, relevant to important human issues such as survival, contribution, competence, health, and the quality of daily life experiences” (Yerxa, 1998, p. 370-371).   Engagement in occupations influences an individual’s health.  “The experience of individual occupations and their blend shapes, in part, a person’s perception of the quality of life” (Yerxa, 1998, p. 367).

“One’s cultural orientation and beliefs helps determine occupational choice, occupational behavior, and occupational performance” (Black & Wells, 2007, p.6).  Culture serves as a basis for health and illness perceptions and decision-making.  Adaptation is fundamental to a culture’s survival and adaptation through occupation is fundamental to an individual’s survival.  Occupational choice are greatly influenced by the cultural framework in which the individual live. Although individuals are shaped by the cultures in which they were socialized, they are able to adapt to new and different cultures. The culture of individuals and communities are constantly blending, changing and evolving to create new and different environments for human beings to interact and engage in occupation.  The interaction of culture and health lends credence to the theory that health is at least in part socially and culturally constructed.

Occupational Therapy addresses the complexity of human occupation when satisfying occupational patterns have been disrupted.  Therapist and client collaborate together in setting goals that will bring meaning to everyday life for that individual and help to establish meaningful occupation.  Learning to manage daily tasks such as work, play and leisure are highly individual goals that include not only task completion, but also require the remaking of one’s life following a transition. Thus, the individual’s desired roles in life (the ability to make a living, make a home, make a family, make friends, and to make a life) should become the first and primary concern of any graduate of this program.  Demonstration of abilities and performance of actions, tasks, and occupations are seen as the vehicles for fulfilling these roles (Christiansen & Baum, 1997). 

If occupational therapists are to provide the best possible care during their interactions, including client-centered, family-centered, and community-based care, they need to understand the dominant and subculture influences that affect the occupational choices and recognize the uniqueness of each person’s choice and personality.  They must make an effort to know and understand how their clients view their health, their own illness, their belief in recovery, and their understanding of both their role and the occupational therapist’s role and process.


Black, R.M & Wells, S.A (2007). Culture and occupation: A model of empowerment in  occupational therapy. Bethesda, MD:AOTA Press

Christiansen, C. & Baum, C. (1997). Person-environment occupational performance. In 
C. Christiansen & C. Baum (Eds.) Occupational performance- Enabling function and well-being. (pp. 46-70). Thorofare, NJ: SLACK Incorporated.

Kielhofner, G. (1995). A model of human occupation (second edition). Baltimore, MD:
Williams & Wilkins.

Peloquin, S.M. (1997). Nationally speaking-the spiritual depth of occupation: Making 
 worlds and making lives. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 51, 

Yerxa, E.J. (1998). Occupation: The keystone of a curriculum for a self-defined
profession. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 52, 365-372.