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Ergotherapy in Kosovo

In 2012, there was only one qualified ergotherapist in Kosovo (Ms Diana Ullrich), she had 15 years’ experience as a certified occupational therapist assistant in the  United States of America and 16 years’ experience as an ergotherapist in Kosovo.  Ms Ullrich is fluent in both written and spoken Albanian, this enabled her to understand the heart of the Kosovar people while gathering data from Kosovar ergotherapy clients, their families and other Kosovar agencies.  She had run an occupational therapy clinic (The Agape Centre, Gjilane) for some 10 years. 


Ergotherapy education in Kosovo

In 2012, when the BSc Ergotherapy program started at QEAP Heimerer now Kolegji Heimerer, Pristina Kosovo, there was only one qualified ergotherapist in the country working within a charity supported clinic in Gjilan.  There was no training for ergotherapists, the profession was unknown and unrecognised within the country. 

Kolegji Heimerer developed and started the BSc Ergotherapy program based on the experience of running several similar programs in Germany.  The ergotherapy program in Kosovo was initially based on the Germany curriculum with cultural and societal adjustments being made for the country of Kosovo.  The ergotherapist based in Gjilan was recruited by Kolegji-Heimerer in 2012 until they recruited an ergotherapy educationalist (with 25+ years of occupational therapy education) from UK to be Head of Programme in 2014, Dr Jennifer Caldwell, was Pro-Dean with responsibility for ergotherapy until 2017.  The programme continues to develop under the direction of Margriet Jaspers.

History of Ergotherapy/Occupational therapy

It is believed that occupational therapy was used for treatment of patients with mental or emotional disorders long time back in 100 BCE. For the first time, a Greek physician named Asclepiades used therapeutic massages, exercises, baths, and music to heal stress and soothe their minds. Later, another Greek philosopher, Celsus used similar therapies like conversation, travel, and music with his patients.

In 18th century, two Europeans, Phillippe Pinel and Johann Christian Rell adopted this method and ameliorate the hospital system. During this era, they quitted metal chains and involved some relaxing activities and meticulous work in their procedure of treating such patients.

Occupational therapy emerged as a profession in 1917 in the United States of America when the National Society for Promotion of Occupational Therapy (now known as American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)) was established. It was officially named as Occupational Therapy in 1920. This association was found with the belief in remedial properties of human occupation. This therapy played a vital role in the treatment of patients suffering with AIDS, polio, tuberculosis, etc.

In the UK, occupational therapy grew exponentially after World War 1 as a result of the high number of casualties suffered by the fighting generation. After the war, these men were often unable to work or labour without the help of an occupational therapy programme to help rehabilitate them into working life and allow them to complete necessary tasks.

Although this was occupational therapy in practice, it was not called occupational therapy until Margaret Barr Fulton MBE became the first 'occupational therapist' to work on the UK in 1925. Working in Aberdeen, Fulton cultivated a strong reputation for the department and helped to develop the profession in the UK. Whilst successful in Scotland, it was Dr Elizabeth Casson who introduced occupational therapy to the UK after seeing it in practice in America, establishing a residential clinic in Bristol in 1929. Casson would found the first school of occupational therapy in the UK in her Bristol clinic in 1930 which would begin training occupational therapists in the UK based on American techniques.

This was further developed after the second world war where the same thing happened, although occupational therapists were also used in the war within military hospitals to help soldiers recover from their injuries enough to become effective as soldiers once again. 

The field of Occupational Therapy kept growing. During the 1960's, as medicine became "specialized", so did occupational therapy. Occupational Therapists were also called upon and qualified to treat in the fields of pediatrics and developmental disabilities. And, with de-institutionalization came an even greater need to help mentally ill, physically infirmed, and developmentally challenged individuals become independent and productive members of society. It was Occupational Therapists that could easily fill this role, and the surge for competently educated therapists was on. 

During the 1980's and 1990's, Occupational Therapy began to focus more on a person's quality of life, thus becoming more involved in education, prevention, screenings, and health maintenance. Goals of occupational therapy could now focus on prevention, quality, and maintaining independence.

Today, occupation is the main focus of the profession. It is certainly an ever-evolving and dynamically moving profession. You will find Occupational Therapists working in a variety of settings with several different age groups and disabilities. Anyone with a physical, emotional, or developmental deficit can be referred by his/her physician, school, or parent for any one of the following reasons: prematurity, birth defect, spina bifida, attention deficit disorder, developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, sensory dysfunction, autism, hyperactivity, down syndrome, amputation, stroke, arthritis, burns, head injury, dementia, diabetes, or cardiac conditions.

Occupational Therapy is a product of, and dependent on, a social environment that values the individual and believes that each person has the capacity to act on his/her own behalf to achieve a better state of health through occupation. Many challenges still need to be met... the future is now!

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