Occupational Therapy at The Movement Clinic: healing with heart
by: Michael Purdie
April is Occupational Therapy Month, a time to bring awareness to this holistic healing approach and recognize its practitioners. The Movement Clinic, located on Baltimore Avenue in College Park’s Calvert Hills neighborhood, provides occupational therapy services to clients looking for physical and mental adjustments to better their everyday lives. “It’s really about time that everyone knows what occupational therapy is,” said Jutta Brettschneider, the clinician who owns this one-woman small business that’s served the city since it opened in 2015.
Occupational therapy is a practice that aims to treat a broad range of issues that may prevent someone from participating in activities, completing daily tasks or moving around efficiently. The approach also aims to help patients to think creatively about limitations they experience and seek ways to adapt. “The [practice of] … occupational therapy comes from the idea that occupations are something meaningful for us,” noted Brettschneider, who is also an adjunct clinical instructor of occupational therapy at Howard University. “They’re activities that we either have to do, we want to do, or we are expected to do.”
Often covered by health insurance, occupational therapy helps an individual who has a limitation — an injury, a disability, issues related to illness — make adjustments so they can carry out the fundamental tasks like bathing, dressing and eating. It can also help people regain ability with more complex activities such as playing an instrument, taking care of a pet or playing sports.
Brettschneider supports her clients with a broad range of services and tailors an individual’s therapy to meet their specific needs. She has taught individuals with attention deficit disorders strategies to improve concentration, clients with carpal tunnel syndrome how to use a keyboard with less pain, and patients who suffered a brain injury how to use the phone again. Much of her work centers around encouraging clients to learn how to better manage their health. Brettschneider’s overarching goal is to work with her clients in a healing environment. “This is a very personal, safe space here,” she said.
One of the core pillars of occupational therapy is the belief that everyone is entitled to engage in daily activities to the best of their ability. “If occupational therapy is about empowering people to the best quality of life, in community, what does it mean?” asked Brettschneider. “First of all, everybody has a right to participate.”
In addition to being a certified occupational therapist, Brettschneider is also a Feldenkrais practitioner, and she incorporates this mind-body method in her work. The Feldenkrais Method, which is based, in part, on physics and biodynamics, is a form of holistic movement training that aims to strengthen one’s mind-body connection and incorporate new ways of moving to promote greater health.
Brettschneider also holds group classes that focus primarily on health education and incorporate Feldenkrais work aimed at preventing injury and illness. Brettschneider also travels to clients’ homes, where she may assist someone who cannot leave their own space, and she presents educational sessions in corporate settings. Individuals can join Brettschneider’s guided nature walks, too, which focus on body awareness and connecting with the environment.
Brettschneider is on track to earn her doctorate in occupational therapy from Howard University in May. She has been working with people to improve their quality of life for more than 35 years, and she is dedicated to serving her clients with services tailored to their specific, unique needs. “My vision is definitely to enable people of all ages to have the best possible quantitative life.”
“Having Jutta in the College Park area is such a blessing – she is pure joy,” said Aleesha Grady, whose son, Liam, has been working with Brettschneider for four years. “Jutta brings an open mind. Jutta takes each individual and individualizes the [treatment approach] for that person and session.”
Grady’s son has benefitted from this work in important and impressive ways. “He’s more engaged, he has an ambition and will – an ‘I can’ attitude,” Grady said. “Jutta gives him that extra push that makes him feel like he can do more. She gives him the understanding to use his challenges to make them work for him and show him how to do things his way. He’s definitely more independent and vocal.”
The nation celebrates occupational therapy this April, but for Brettschneider every time she can support a client is cause for celebration. “Liam wakes up excited on Tuesday mornings because he knows he’s going to see Jutta,” said Grady. “He always comes up to me and says ‘I get to see Jutta today!’ with a smile on his face. She’s truly a blessing.”