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Occupational therapy eases the work of living
Virginia Holcomb, right, the director of occupational therapy at Teton Therapy, shares a hug with Amanda R. Morey at the end her session Friday. In 2003, Morey suffered a traumatic brain injury that put her in a coma for weeks. She is now working to overcome the effects of ataxia, a lack of muscle coordination that can make walking and picking up objects difficult. Photo by Jamie Drendel

Occupational therapy eases the work of living

Apr 10, 2012 - By Emily Etheredge, Staff Writer

When Virginia Holcomb goes to work, she makes the pain of others disappear. As the director of occupational therapy at Teton Therapy, Holcomb works to improve the mobility and lives of her patients.

"Nothing is more gratifying than having a patient who has suffered shoulder pain for five years, and has not been doing anything, walk into the clinic and after several sessions of therapy, tell me that they were able to go fishing, hunting, working on their quilt or carry their child without pain," Holcomb said.

Holcomb said she hopes to educate the Riverton community about occupational therapy, which she thinks is a misunderstood and largely underused practice.

Occupational therapy is a client-centered therapy that defines "occupation" as any meaningful activity in which a person engages. Its scope is vast and can encompass a person at any point in his or her lifespan. Occupational therapists typically work throughout a community and depending on a patient's needs, can be found in schools, outpatient clinics, hospitals, home health services, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, early intervention and child development services.

"It seems that most people have a hard time truly understanding what an occupational therapist can do for them," Holcomb said. "We are broadly trained so that we can be effective in assisting and returning people to independence in whatever is important to them."

Holcomb works in an outpatient facility that services a wide range of clients with a wide range of limitations. She primarily cares for and treats people with orthopedic issues such as rotator cuff tears, shoulder pain, elbow pain, hand and wrist dysfunction and arthritis.

As the population ages and people live longer, assistance after an injury or illness is required more often, she said.

Holcomb said she finds it important to ensure that her patients meet the goals they identify as important.

"Therapy is intensely personal and very client-centered," Holcomb said. "The patient's needs, wants and goals guide their treatment. In addition, I try to make sure that the patient fully understands their condition and empower them to be involved at every level of their recovery."

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