A Video is Worth a Thousand Words: Promoting Occupational Therapy

Hello, world! I’m still processing the inspiring, overwhelming and thoroughly enjoyable weekend I had at the American Occupational Therapy Association’s 2011 Conference in Philadelphia, PA.

I entered the conference prepared to be overwhelmed and inspired by the esteemed Occupational Therapists (OTs), COTAs, Professors, Advocates, and other students from around the country.  However, I did not anticipate was that something I created would become a source of inspiration for many of the 6,000 therapists in attendance.  At the Opening Ceremony on Thursday, my video was announced as the winner of the AOTA Student Video Contest and was played in it’s entirety.  I knew beforehand that I had won, but had felt slightly self-conscious about aspects of the film prior to the Conference…was the soundtrack too dramatic? Were the images strong enough? Should I have gone with my original idea to speed up the photos dramatically at the end to a dizzying effect?  As soon as the music started, however, those fears were put to rest as the audience responded with the “oohs” and “aahs” and even tears that any filmmaker dreams of.

There’s no way I can fully do justice to the sense of relief, purpose, and just pure joy I felt when the crowd rose to their feet at the 3rd minute for a standing ovation and AOTA President Florence Clark invited me up to the stage.  This feeling continued throughout the next 3 days as I was consistently recognized wherever I went (even the bathroom!) and got to hear students/therapists tell me that the video brought them to tears, or that it inspired them to make their own video, or that they couldn’t wait to tell their class about it back at school.  All I can say was that it was immensely rewarding, and I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to break the ice so easily with so many interesting therapists/students from around the country.

Making new friends at the AOTA Conference

Objectively, I think the experience as a whole is a shining testament to the power of video to transmit a clear, concise message in an emotionally evocative way.  Although there were a few concise and creative statements I crafted that possibly communicated the scope and purpose of OT in a new way, the vast majority of the content I drew from was basic information that any Occupational Therapist could have told anyone beforehand. So, throughout the conference I was left with the question: why specifically did this video strike such a chord with people?  Scientifically speaking, it is impossible to narrow down the root cause of peoples’ reactions, but my intuition after creating some of these videos before is that the answer lies not in just one aspect, but in the power of video to combine 3 engaging forms of media (still photographs, music and text) into one, where the “whole” becomes greater than the individual parts.

OTs and Hand therapy poster

OTs and Hand therapy poster

Most of the time in healthcare and/or academia,  information is conveyed primarily through text and the spoken word and only secondarily augmented through the use of photographs and (more rarely) music.  Of course, this is simply the most practical solution for many people, and it’s the way that things have “traditionally” been done.  However, if nothing else, I do hope that my video makes people consider the value of mixed media presentations.  In my case, I specifically chose still photographs, emotionally evocative music and slow transitions into and out of simple text messages in order to really draw the audience in, in a way that would NEVER be possible had I used the 4 minutes to lecture about what OT is and why OTs should join AOTA.  Plus, it is exceedingly efficient, as the 4 minute video can be easily copied onto tons of DVDs and viewed on youtube forevermore.

Mikaela and her father love OT

Mikaela and her father love OT

There is a whole discipline of Psychology devoted to human decision-making, which I would love to delve more into (“Predictably Irrational” has been on my “to-read” list for years!).  I suspect that when you endeavor to inspire someone to make a change in behavior that will require some element of self-sacrifice (such as joining a professional association, which costs money), it is most effective to appeal not only to their mind but also their hearts.  Of course, this was a fairly easy task in my case as Occupational Therapists tend to have huge hearts to begin with 🙂   I look forward to examining this topic in more detail over the summer and exploring the myriad possibilities for visual media within Occupational Therapy advocacy and practice!

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About Cheryl Crow

My punctuation mark of preference is, without a doubt, the exclamation point! Join me as I explore the wonderful worlds of: studying Occupational Therapy, gluten-free cooking/baking, swing dancing, photography, and living a full life with Rheumatoid Arthritis. There will be parenthetical tangents, there will be cake, there will be almost unbearable amounts of cuteness, but most of all…there will be enthusiasm. (!)
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