Curriculum Design

The occupational therapy curriculum emphasizes the person, environment and occupation relationship and incorporates an experiential approach that focuses on students engaging as active learners. Foundation and upper level clinical courses promote an understanding of the dynamic relationship between health, well-being and occupational engagement for a person’s ability to participate in valued life activities and roles. Students are immersed in learning opportunities to both promote clinical reasoning skills and develop a systemic view of health and service delivery systems. The curriculum model is organized around three elements: Foundations and Professional Identity, Evaluation and Intervention in Practice Settings, and Professional Responsibility and Research. It is further supported by three major themes that are infused throughout coursework:

MSOT curriculum Venn diagram

Person-Environment-Occupation Relationship, Therapeutic Use of Self and Entry Level Practice.

Organizing Elements

Foundations & Professional Identity

Foundational courses provide students with a basis for understanding the distinct occupational perspective and how the profession contributes to health promotion and participation in society. The Occupational Therapy Practice Framework is introduced along with the major practice models and theoretical frameworks that define the language and philosophy of occupational therapy. Students explore the intersection of the areas of occupation, client factors, performance skills and patterns as well as context and environmental factors. An exploration of occupations as performed individually, as a group or as a population allow the student to understand the activity demands of the occupation.

Evaluation & Intervention in Practice Settings

Evaluation and intervention courses focus on a variety of service delivery models and provide a framework for developing client-centered intervention of individuals, groups and populations. The application of practice models within this content guides the development of critical thinking. Students engage in case driven labs and fieldwork experiences to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to clinical settings, in order to hone clinical reasoning skills, and achieve entry level competence.

Professional Responsibility & Research

Students learn about the roles and associated responsibilities of the OT through coursework that addresses occupational therapy service delivery, advocacy, ethics and health policy administration. A multi-course research sequence prepares students for scholarly inquiry guiding them to become evidence-based practitioners. Working collaboratively with faculty, clinic and community-based sites, student teams develop and implement research studies whose outcomes augment current literature and meet the information needs of research partners. The culminating requirement is a presentation at the annual Graduate Research Symposium. Through these experiences, students develop the broad perspective required for promoting and providing best practice.

Supporting Themes

Person-Environment-Occupation Relationship

Students explore how factors related to the person, environment and occupation impact health, well-being and participation in society. Throughout the curriculum students engage in scholarly inquiry, case-based learning and field experiences with persons, groups and organizations. Together these learning activities assist students to analyze the elements that promote occupational performance.

Therapeutic Use of Self

Students develop skills in forming therapeutic relationships through experiences that foster self-awareness, personal maturity and effective communication. Emphasis on client-centered practice supports the student’s ability to engage in a collaborative intervention process.

Entry-Level Practice

Entry-level practice as an occupational therapist is facilitated through the development of critical thinking skills, therapeutic use of self and professionalism. The application of ethics, evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning are woven throughout coursework and fieldwork experiences. Students develop the knowledge, skills and behaviors required for best practice.

For more information on the specific courses involved in the programs, visit the M.S. in Occupational Therapy catalog page.

M.S Occupational Therapy Program Outcome Statements

At the end of the Occupational Therapy program students will:

Foundations & Professional Identity
Demonstrate knowledge of the history of the profession, the scope and role of occupational therapy within the service delivery systems, and its contributions to health promotion, wellness and participation in society.
Establish and sustain client centered therapeutic relationships and support intergenerational and cultural sensitivity in client interaction.
Function in the generalist role and assume a commitment to lifelong learning.
Develop professional behaviors, attitudes and actions reflective of ethical standards and values.
Demonstrate a strong command of the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework language when communicating effectively in writing or speaking to a variety of audiences.
Advocate for the profession and the people we serve through active participation and membership in community and professional organizations.
Evaluation & Intervention in Practice Settings
Value culture and other person-environment factors in developing meaningful interventions across clinical and community settings.
Apply knowledge of the relationship of theory to a variety of practice settings using theoretical models and frames of reference to guide clinical reasoning.
Distinguish and use appropriate screening and assessment methods to determine client goals and document the need to refer to other disciplines as indicated.
Develop and implement occupation-based intervention plans that support the client’s ability to return to desired habits, routines, roles, and rituals within their environment.
Document services to ensure accountability and to meet standards for reimbursement.
Work cooperatively with members of interprofessional teams and other stakeholders within the health delivery system.
Professional Responsibility & Research
Integrate knowledge of state, federal and professional standards and regulations that shape community and clinical practice.
Demonstrate skills in the management of occupational therapy services including supervision and an understanding of the health care team, budgeting and reimbursement and leadership. 
Demonstrate an understanding of the occupational therapy scope of practice through legislative advocacy, consumer education, and knowledge of trends and opportunities. 
Critically analyze research literature to make evidence-based decisions and engage in scholarly activities that contribute to best practice.
Apply current research methods to design and execute a novel research study.

Curricular Objectives

The following curricular objectives link to the program’s curriculum design and identify educational expectations and competencies.

Foundations & Professional Identity

  1. Demonstrates consistent personal and professional ethical behavior
  2. Demonstrates positive interpersonal and interprofessional skills
  3. Communicates the values and beliefs of OT to clients, staff and family
  4. Demonstrates beginning use of professional OT language
  5. Seeks and responds constructively to feedback
  6. Takes responsibility for own learning

Evaluation & Intervention in Practice Settings

  1. Adheres to safety regulations in regard to safety of self and others
  2. Demonstrates ability to establish rapport with clients and team members
  3. Demonstrates respect for diversity factors and lifestyle choices of others
  4. Analyzes impact of person-environment factors on OT evaluation and intervention
  5. Selects appropriate screening and assessment tools based on client need, context and environment
  6. Refers to specialists for consultation and intervention
  7. Uses standardized and non-standardized screening and assessment tools appropriately
  8. Uses theories, practice models, and frames of reference to guide and inform evaluation and intervention
  9. Makes informed practice decisions based on critical analyses of the evidence
  10. Develops and implements occupational based interventions based on appropriate theoretical approach and client needs
  11. Demonstrates skills in supervising and collaborating with OTAs
  12. Documents services and maintains records to ensure accountability and meet reimbursement and facility standards
  13. Demonstrates knowledge and compliance with reimbursement mechanisms
  14. Monitors and reassess the effect of OT intervention and need for continued or modified services
  15. Develops discharge plans and terminates OT services as appropriate
  16. Report evaluation results and modify practice as needed to improve outcomes
  17. Provides client and family education to support occupational participation

Professional Responsibility & Research

  1. Manages time, schedules and prioritizes workload appropriately
  2. Develops strategies for effective use of OT and non-OT staff
  3. Understands trends in models of service delivery and their effect on OT practice
  4. Considers the impact of contextual factors on management and delivery of OT services
  5. Demonstrates ability to design processes to manage quality and develop program changes
  6. Understands factors that promote policy development and provision of OT services
  7. Demonstrates knowledge of state, federal and professional standards that shape practice
  8. Demonstrates knowledge of advocacy to benefit consumers and the profession
  9. Identifies opportunities to address societal needs by participating in the development & marketing of OT services
  10. Understands and critiques research studies
  11. Uses research/professional literature to make evidence-based decisions
  12. Designs and implements novice research studies relevant to occupational therapy
  13. Identifies strategies for ongoing professional development
  14. Participates in professional activities to advance the profession

Mission & Philosophy

Occupational Therapy Program Mission

The Russell Sage College Occupational Therapy programs encourage students to be self-directed and engaged actively in their learning. The programs provide opportunities for reflective practice and critical inquiry with vibrant problem solving. We emphasize experiential learning that builds occupation-based clinical reasoning practices explicitly linking the person, environment and occupation. Our graduates will occupy diverse workforce roles and contribute to the health and well-being of individuals, populations and society.

Occupational Therapy Program Philosophy

In Occupational Therapy, we believe in the positive relationship between occupation and health. Occupations refer to the everyday activities that people do as individuals, in families and with communities to occupy time and bring meaning and purpose to life (WFOT, 2012). Occupations carry both practical and symbolic significance, and include things people need to, want to and are expected to do.

Occupations can be observed by others, occur over time, have purpose and meaning, occur in context, and are influenced by a person’s performance patterns, performance skills, and underlying client factors (AOTA, 2020).

The Russell Sage College Occupational Therapy Program recognizes engagement in occupations as the core of individual, community, and societal well-being.

Occupational engagement occurs within complex relational systems that provide connection to other persons and environments. The curriculum design of the programs emphasizes the contextualized lived experiences of individuals and the intricate nature of occupational engagement. The Person-Environment-Occupation model serves as the theoretical framework for the programs.

In accord with the Russell Sage College motto, “To be, to know, to do,” occupations are vehicles for doing, becoming, and knowing in the world. 


American Occupational Therapy Association. (2020). Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process—Fourth Edition. (2020). American Journal Occupational Therapy 2020;74 (Supplement_2): 7412410010.

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2018). Philosophy of occupational therapy education. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72 (Suppl. 2), 7212410070

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2017). Philosophical base of occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71 (Suppl. 2), 7112410045.

World Federation of Occupational Therapists. (2012). Definition of Occupational Therapy