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Occupational therapy (OT) has evolved over its 100 year existence as a profession. There are many individuals who facilitated changes in the profession, however not all of them are written about textbooks. This life history is one of 29 life history interviews which are part of a larger project, Life Histories of Individuals Who Have Been Influential in Developing Occupational Therapy and North Dakota and Wyoming. The purpose of the project is to gather information about the history and evolution of IT practice through the life history of an individual who has been influential in developing OT. This study is intended to provide current and future generations of occupational therapists a view of the history and how occupational therapy practice has evolved from its inception to current practice, specifically in North Dakota and Wyoming.

Sonia Zimmerman, an OT educator and practitioner was the focus of this study. Her experiences span from practitioner to professor to volunteer and valued member of many organizations, She is currently a professor at the University of North Dakota (UND) where she graduated with her Bachelors of Science in occupational therapy with a psychology minor in 1977. Her experiences since then provide a deeper understanding of her role within the field of OT. She was interviewed at UND in a single interview session which lasted approximately 70 minutes.

A qualitative research design with a life history approach was used in this study. The life history approach focuses on a participant’s experiences and turning points within those experiences (Curtin & Fossey, 2007). This approach was chosen because it was determined to be a powerful way to gather information about each individual. The Kawa model was used to guide this research study in developing the interview questions and analyzing data.

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occupational therapists, Mental Health, community practice ideas


Occupational Therapy

Life History of Sonia Zimmerman, Ph.D., OTR/L, FAOTA