“At Last…
a Simple System to make Client-Centered
Occupation-Based Treatment
Efficient, Enjoyable
and Easy”


Efficient-  saves you time, money and resources (reprint rights INCLUDED!)
Enjoyable- clients choose activities that are intrinsically motivating to them
- a simple 2-step system that encourages each client’s
maximum independence from start to finish

To: Occupational Therapy Professionals
From: Charla Holst, OTR/L
Tuesday 11:06 AM

Dear fellow occupational therapy professionals,

I’m Charla Holst, OTR/L and my friend Debbie Vogt, OTR/L and I created the Empowering Occupational Therapy system out of a need in our own practice.  This is our story…

While doing contract work as an occupational therapist I became very frustrated.  Every place I worked I experienced limited treatment time, lack of staff, more exercise equipment than occupation or activity-related supplies and a lack of financial resources to acquire the supplies needed for my clients.  It was during this time that I decided there had to be a better way.  I was becoming very weary of the profession I once loved.  Occupation is powerful, I knew that from the research and from personal experience, but I didn’t feel like I had the resources or time to practice that way anymore.  It seemed like rote exercise and meaningless activity had become the norm as I experienced this in every setting I practiced.   I realized I had to find a way to get back to occupation or find something else to do.

That’s when this system was born. 

I remember the day well… I had 4 or 5 clients literally lined up waiting to see me as I was already treating 2 clients and I thought, “It would be great if the people lined up in the hall could have a catalog of activities to browse through while they are waiting.”  This would allow the activity to be naturally client-centered and intrinsically motivating as the client could choose it themselves.  It would save a lot of time and would be inherently more enjoyable for the client and myself allowing for greater compliance and carry over.  As the idea grew, I realized I could encourage the client’s maximum independence and wise use of my time by providing the client with clear easy instructions for each activity.

That’s when I compiled a notebook of activities organized by treatment type.  All of the activities I chose encouraged occupation and used supplies that I commonly had available to me in any practice setting or used recyclables that I could supply to the client free of charge.  This worked very well since the client had access to the necessary supplies outside of therapy so they could continue the activity after our treatment time, which they often did because it was an activity that they chose and enjoyed.

I saw compliance and progress go way up! 

It allowed me to use my time more wisely and efficiently as I could focus more on the areas requiring one-on-one treatment during our short times together.  It also allowed the client to be as independent as possible from the very beginning of treatment.  In fact, it worked so well that I further developed the idea by organizing bins of supplies by treatment type so the client could even retrieve their own supplies and clean up the activity as they were able.  This also allowed me to get a clear sense of their abilities and safety as I didn’t have to “hold their hand” through the activity any more than necessary.   How many times had I provided more assistance than my client needed only because the setting was not organized for allowing maximum independence?  I can’t tell you what a difference this has made in my practice.  I love my job again!  I don’t waste my time or my client’s precious treatment minutes trying to cajole them into doing meaningless childish activities.

As I got requests from friends for copies of my notebook, I realized this could be developed into a system to help other occupational therapy professionals.  So I went to see Debbie, my good friend since occupational therapy school, and she and I expanded the notebook to include 100 occupation-based activities organized into treatment categories.  We created a well-organized system for client-centered occupation-based treatment.  We had it professionally illustrated and printed.  We also made sure to write each activity to the client—no medical jargon.  We used large print and kept it under a sixth-grade reading level.  We included the goal for each activity and an accomplishment list so the client would know what they were working on and stay motivated.  We compiled it all into a 3-ring binder and included reprint rights so the activities can be easily photocopied for home programs, caregiver instruction sheets or group treatment. 

Since then we have even developed a digital version available on CD so it can be used on the computer or printed out.  The Empowering Occupational Therapy system has now been chosen by thousands of occupation-minded OT professionals and we would love to share it with you! 

Isn’t it time you loved your job again?


Charla Holst, OTR/L
Co-author of Empowering Occupational Therapy
Co-owner of TheraPower LLC

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