Investigating the status of "The Pledge and Creed for Occupational Therapists"

A little over a year ago I presented an argument that the Emmanuel Movement provided important core values for the occupational therapy profession.  This argument was constructed in context of a debate on whether or not Social Justice was a historical value of the profession.

I was curious as to why we neglected to include the Emmanuel Movement when we discussed our values and beliefs.  In the beginnings of the 20th century the Emmanuel Movement was based on the notion that a new method was required to address the social problems of disability and illness.  That new method was a philosophy regarding responsibility and self reliance - and surrounded by Christian values of charity.

Furthermore, that method was most certainly not based on a governmental model of redistribution or in a new age construct of oppression and liberation.  That fact is what made some of the recent social justice debates so curious.

Shannon (1977) warned that "a discipline that forgets its founders may be lost."

I have been studying these Values and Beliefs articles for a couple years and I recently noticed something that seemed to be missing.  In the initial article for the series covering the dates from 1904-1929 there is no mention of the  Occupational Therapy Pledge and Creed.  Certainly a Pledge and Creed would be an important document that would reflect both values and beliefs. 

The Occupational Therapy Pledge and Creed was submitted by the Boston School of Occupational Therapy and adopted by AOTA in 1926.  What is noteworthy is that the Pledge and Creed is mentioned in the book of one of the authors of the Values and Belief series (Reed and Sanderson, 1999, p. 408).  The Pledge and Creed states:

REVERENTLY AND EARNESTLY do I pledge my whole-hearted service in aiding those crippled in mind and body.

TO THIS END that my work for the sick may be successful, I will ever strive for greater knowledge, skill and understanding in the discharge of my duties in whatsoever position I may find myself.

I SOLEMNLY DECLARE that I will hold and keep inviolate whatever I may learn of the lives of the sick.

I ACKNOWLEDGE the dignity of the cure of disease and the safeguarding of health in which no act is menial or inglorious.

I WILL WALK in upright faithfulness and obedience to those under whose guidance I am to work, and I pray for patience, kindliness, and strength in the holy ministry to broken minds and bodies.

Most interestingly, Reed and Sanderson document that this Pledge and Creed "remains official today" when their book was published in 1999.  Since Reed wrote about the Pledge and Creed in 1999 certainly she was aware of it when she wrote the Values and Beliefs series.  I am not sure why it would not be mentioned in the series.

I have not been able to locate any documentation or announcement that this Pledge and Creed has ever been rescinded but this is an area that I am continuing to investigate.

Aside from the curious omission from the values and beliefs series it is important to note that such a Pledge and Creed incorporates a view of occupational therapy that is at severe odds with the changes that have been espoused by some therapists in the last twenty years.  Values of social justice, political redistribution of resources, client-based ethics, and redefinition of who we provide services to (whole communities, agencies, non-human entities, etc) are all severely out of step with the Pledge and Creed.  

The words 'pray' and 'holy ministry' are certainly interesting and I wonder if that is why the Pledge and Creed are not mentioned by those who espouse a secular interpretation of occupational therapy history.

I am not advocating the position that OT has to be explained in Christian terms but perhaps the inability to advance and explain the spiritual dimension of practice is why we have become so lost with our definitions. The existence of the Pledge and Creed presents itself as a philosophic conundrum for the profession.  

The Pledge and Creed is not on the AOTA website.  Has it been rescinded?

Does it 'remain official today?'

Is it the will of the association to rescind the document if it has not already been done?

If not expressed in specific terms of Christian ethics, how does the occupational therapy profession express its interest in spirituality?  We have lost our way on this topic. Howard and Howard (1997) asked "What does spirituality have to do with occupational therapy?"  They mentioned the early influence of the Immanuel (sic) movement, but it is clear that even in attempting to cover the topic that they apparently missed the mark.  Christiansen (1997) stated that "by failing to acknowledge a spiritual dimension, occupational therapy practitioners lose important opportunities for understanding the full potential of occupation to enhance the health and well-being of clients."

Egan and Swedersky (2003) state that "given the diverse definitions and the multiple meaning of spirituality in practice it is perhaps not surprising that studies of American, British, and Canadian occupational therapists are unsure of the role of spirituality in practice."

But even with these acknowledgements of spirituality in practice we have approached the subject as if we are doing so for the first time.  What an unusual position for a profession to be in when its very roots were based in a notion of mind-body-spirit healing!


embedded links, and...

Christiansen, C. (1997).  Acknowledging a spiritual dimension in occupational therapy.  American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 51, 169-172.

Egan, M. and Swedersky, J. (2003). Spirituality as experienced by occupational therapists in practice.  American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 57, 525-533.
Howard, B.S. and Howard, J.R. (1997). Occupation as spiritual activity.  American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 51, 181-185.

Sanderson, S.N. and Reed, K.L. (1999).  Concepts of occupational therapy, 4th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins.

Shannon, P.D. (1977). The derailment of occupational therapy. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 31, 229-34.


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