Occupational Therapy

Welcome to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Occupational Therapy Program.  The Occupational Therapy program graduated its first class in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science degree.  We began offering a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy degree in the summer of 2005 graduating our first MS class in 2007.  The full-time program includes two years of coursework on campus (including two summers) followed by six months of level II fieldwork.  Students graduating from the program are eligible to sit for the national certification examination administered by the NBCOT.  After successful completion of the exam, the individual will be credentialed as an occupational therapist, registered (OTR).  Most states require a license to practice occupational therapy.  State licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination and additional open-booked testing on the state law.  A felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to take the NBCOT certification exam or to obtain state licensure. Please feel free to explore our website in order to learn about the program, admissions, and the profession.  If you would like additional information please send us an email.

The Occupational Therapy program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (
AOTA), located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, North Bethesda, MD  20852-4929.  Telephone number: 301-652-6211  Email: accred@aota.org  Webpage: www.acoteonline.org.

In its simplest terms, occupational therapists help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations).  Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.  Occupational therapy services typically include: 

  • an individualized evaluation, during which the client/family and occupational therapist determine the person’s goals, 
  • customized intervention to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals, and
  • an outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan.

Occupational therapy services may include comprehensive evaluations of the client’s home and other environments (e.g., workplace, school), recommendations for adaptive equipment and training in its use, and guidance and education for family members and caregivers.  Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team.

Source:  AOTA

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of Occupational Therapists is expected to grow 29% from 2012-2022, considerably faster than the national average for all occupations.  To learn more about the current employment outlook please visit – Bureau of Labor Statistics

UWL Occupational Therapy Mission Statement 

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Occupational Therapy program graduates entry level occupational therapist leaders who are committed to providing excellent occupation centered, person centered, evidence-based occupational therapy that is grounded in foundational sciences.”

Philosophy of the Profession

The faculty of the UWL Occupational Therapy Program adopt and embrace the following AOTA philosophy of the profession (AOTA, 2011).

Occupations are activities that bring meaning to the daily lives of individuals, families, and communities and enable them to participate in society.  All individuals have an innate need and right to engage in meaningful occupations throughout their lives.  Participation in these occupations influences their development, health, and well-being across the lifespan.  As such, participation in meaningful occupation is a determinant of health.

Occupations occur within diverse social, physical, cultural, personal, temporal, or virtual contexts.  The quality of occupational performance and the experience of each occupation are unique in each situation due to the dynamic relationship between factors intrinsic to the individual, the contexts in which the occupation occurs and the characteristics of the activity. 

The focus and outcome of occupational therapy are individuals’ engagement in meaningful occupations that support their participation in life situations.  Occupational therapy practitioners conceptualize occupations as both a means and an end to therapy.  That is, there is therapeutic value in occupational engagement as a change agent and engagement in occupations is also the ultimate goal of therapy. 

Occupational therapy is based on the belief that occupations may be used for health promotion and wellness, remediation or restoration, health maintenance, disease and injury prevention, and compensation/adaptation.  The use of occupation to promote individual, community and population health is the core of occupational therapy practice, education, research, and advocacy. 

Beliefs about Humans and Occupation

In addition to adopting the philosophy of the profession of occupational therapy, we believe that the Occupational Therapy Framework:  Domain and Processes (AOTA, 2014) is a useful way to organize thinking about occupational performance.  The components of the Domain (Areas of Occupation, Performance Skills, Performance Patterns, Context, Activity Demands, and Client Factors) are influenced by the individual’s genetics, development, personal preferences, culture, environment, and social/political factors (McColl, M.A., Law, M.C., & Stewart, D., 2015). We believe that humans have a transactional relationship with their environment (Dunn, McLain, Brown, & Youngstrom, 2003).  Not only does the environment affect the individual’s occupational performance, the individual can have an impact on the environment.  We believe that the occupations that we engage in today have an effect on our future health.  Participation in meaningful occupations enhances the quality of life, supports self-actualization, and improves occupational balance.  (AOTA, 2007)

The common division of occupation into categories of work, leisure, self-care, and sleep may not be universal (Hammell, KW, 2009), thus a client-centered approach becomes essential.  We believe that excellent occupational therapy is person centered and addresses each individual client’s occupational performance:  the ability to perform desired and needed occupations in whatever context the client functions.  We endorse the following statement:  “Occupational therapists view humans as occupational beings, and engagement in dignified and meaningful occupations is as fundamental to the experience of health and wellbeing as eating, drinking, and being loved.” (Kronenberg & Pollard, p. 58).   We believe that occupational therapy can occur wherever humans are engaged in purposeful activity and that occupational therapists facilitate occupational performance through direct provision of services, consultation, and advocacy.  


  •  American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) (2014).  Occupational therapy practice framework:  Domain and process.  American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(Suppl. 1), S1-S48. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.682006 
  • American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) (2011).  The philosophical base of occupational therapy.  American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65(Suppl.), S65.  doi:10.5014/ajot.2011.65S65
  • American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) (2007).  Philosophy of occupational therapy education. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 57,640.
  • Dunn, W., McLain, L.H., Brown, C., & Youngstrom, M.J. (2003).  The ecology of human performance.  In E. Crepeau, E. Cohn, & B. Schell (Eds.), Willard & Spackman’s Occupational Therapy (pp. 223-227).  Philadelphia:  Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
  • Hammel, KW. (2009). Sacred texts:  A skeptical exploration of the assumptions underpinning theories of occupation.  Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 76, 6-13.
  • Kronnenberg, F.& Pollard, N. (2005).  Overcoming occupational apartheid:  A preliminary exploration of the political nature of occupational therapy.  In (F. Kronnenberg, S. Algado, & N. Pollard (Eds.), Occupational Therapy Without Borders:  Learning From the Spirit of Survivors (p. 58).  New York:  Elsevier.
  • McColl, M.A., Law, M.C. & Stewart, D.S. (2015).  Theoretical basis of occupational therapy (3rd Ed).  Thorofare NJ:  Slack.

 Academic Objectives

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Occupational Therapy Program graduates will: 

  1. apply foundational science principles in their clinical reasoning throughout all steps of the occupational therapy process
    • Summarize structures, function, and pathological conditions that affect selected aspects of the body.
    • Explain selected aspects of client conditions and occupational therapy evaluation and intervention using foundational science concepts.
  1. function as entry level, generalist occupational therapists.
    • Communicate proficiently with clients, supervisors, co-workers, family members and significant others in verbal, non-verbal, and written formats.
    • Use client-centered, occupation-based approaches throughout the occupational therapy process.
    • Effectively evaluate client’s occupational performance.
    • Formulate intervention plans that facilitate the client’s occupational performance.
    • Implement intervention plans that facilitate the client’s occupational performance.
  1. incorporate theory into their occupational therapy practice
    • Use theory to justify evaluations and interventions used in practice.
    • Use theory as a basis for program planning for both individuals and populations.
  1. serve as leaders with effective professional behaviors
    • Adhere to ethical and legal regulations of practice.
    • Demonstrate effective professional behaviors.
    • Use culturally sensitive practices.
    • Serve in leadership roles and advocate for clients and the profession.
    • Embrace life-long learning for continued professional growth.
  1. use evidence appropriately to guide clinical practice
    • Use evidence to inform decisions.
    • Systematically record and analyze client outcomes in own practice.
    • Read current scholarly literature related to practice.     

The program is 30 months long and includes 6 months of full-time Level II fieldwork.  Students must complete Level II fieldwork within 24 months of the completion of the didactic portion of the curriculum in order to graduate.  Graduates of the program will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapy administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).  After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be an Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR).  In addition, most states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination.  A felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state licensure.

Occupational Therapy educational programs are periodically reaccredited to maintain the quality of the program.  The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Occupational Therapy Program was last accredited in 2015 for ten years. 

The Occupational Therapy program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (
AOTA), located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, North Bethesda, MD  20852-4929.  Telephone number: 301-652-6211  Email: accred@aota.org  Webpage: www.acoteonline.org

University of Wisconsin Occupational Therapy Program Goals

1.0 Admit the most qualified students and support them through successful completion of the program. 

  • Minimum overall GPA of 3.0
  • Return second year of program
  • complete didactic course work in 24 months
  • complete Fieldwork II in 6 months after didactic coursework 

2.0 Develop competent generalist practitioners who are prepared to provide occupation centered, client centered occupational therapy that is informed by evidence.  (Mission of Program Implemented) 

  • Pass Fieldwork II on first try
  • Pass NBCOT certification examination on first try
  • Student learning outcomes met
  • Employed in field within 6 months of graduation 

3.0 Develop entry level occupational therapists who display the professional behaviors consistent with those of the profession.  

  • Demonstrate entry level  professional behaviors on Fieldwork II 

4.0 Retain and develop faculty and IAS to maintain excellence in teaching and currency in content area. 

  • Set and meet teaching effectiveness and content currency goals annually on PDP
  • Participate in faculty development activities annually
  • Collective SEI ratings for program are at or above 4.0 

5.0 Graduates, Alumni, and employers are satisfied with academic preparation 

  • Students evaluate each Fieldwork II placement (using SEFWE)
  • Graduates are satisfied with academic preparation
  • Alumni are satisfied with academic preparation
  • Employers are satisfied with UWL graduate academic preparation

Fieldwork is defined as a student face to face interaction with a client.  It may take place in the client’s home, workplace, therapy setting, or in our laboratories. 

The faculty believe in the effectiveness of hands-on learning, so the UWL Occupational Therapy Program has a fieldwork experience in every semester of the program.  These experiences are summarized below. 

1) Integrated fieldwork experiences

  • The purpose of these experiences is to gain exposure to different intervention contexts, reinforce course content by applying it in real-life settings, and begin to build skills and professional behaviors.  These are generally organized and directed by faculty. 

2) Three Fieldwork I experiences

  • Connected with each of the major content areas in the program (mental health, physical dysfunction, and pediatrics).
  • Primary purpose of Fieldwork I is development of student’s professional behaviors.
  • Students continue to be exposed to different intervention contexts and identify the role of OT in those settings
  • Students continue to build knowledge and technical skills
  • Organized by faculty and AFWC; directed/evaluated by OTR or COTA

3) Patient Laboratories for children and adult clients 

  • Primary purpose is to apply the entire occupational therapy process with a single client.
  • Organized by faculty; supervised and graded in a  1:2 ratio by core and adjunct faculty; extensive individual feedback given on professional behaviors, technical skills, and implementation of OT process
  • Demonstrate technical skills to a basic level of competency
  • Continued development of professional behaviors
  • Integrate curricular threads while applying the occupational therapy process
    • Basic science
    • Theory
    • Clinical Skills
    • Scholarly Practice (outcome measures & collecting evidence in an intervention session)

4) Two Fieldwork II experiences at the end of the curriculum

  • Apply didactic knowledge in two clinical settings to entry level competency in knowledge, technical skills, and professional behaviors. 
  • Experience designed by AFWC and FWE, supervised and graded by FWE, assignments graded by AFWC, final grade entered by AFWC. 
  • Integrate threads of the curriculum
    • Case study assignment (basic science, theory, clinical, scholarship skills)
    • EBP project (scholarship skills)
    • Reflection on student’s experiences in observation/participation in leadership, advocacy, and promotion of occupational therapy (leadership, advocacy)   

Please be aware that a felony charge may affect your ability to obtain fieldwork placements and/or sit for the board examination.

We are pleased to report the following outcomes for the occupational therapy program:

Graduation Year (Calendar

Students Entering/Students Graduating

Graduation Rate

Percent of Students Who
Passed the NBCOT Certification
(including retakes)

2018 26/25 96% 100%
2019 25/22 88% 100%
2020 26/25 96% 100%
2021 26/24 92% 100%
Total 103/96 93% 100%

The official pass rate for the UWL program is available from the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) at:  https://secure.nbcot.org/data/schoolstats.aspx.  Select Wisconsin, Masters Programs and the year of interest.