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As of 2016, there is an estimated 35.8 million people who are victims of human trafficking (Gorman & Hatkevich, 2016). There are overwhelming and lasting effects that human trafficking survivors and their families face such as mental, physical, social, and economic challenges (Rajaram & Tidball, 2018). The purpose of this project is to utilize an occupational therapy lens to evaluate the needs of human trafficking survivors to promote community reintegration, while considering their roles, routines, and significant occupations and how these may have been disrupted by their lived experience as survivors.

Observations of the established programming and the participants over 4 months, informal interviews with staff and participants, education through weekly life skills classes, concept mapping, and discussions on occupations were made as part of the needs assessment. Participants reported struggling in eight out of nine areas of occupation outlined in the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process, 4th edition (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2020). Several themes were found in the needs assessment: a need for support in self-care, areas of desired skill development, improved social participation, and other areas of occupation. However, the main theme found in the needs assessment is that participants had difficulty balancing all the important activities in their lives, which has impacted their ability to reintegrate into the community. An eight-week “Lifestyle Balance” program was designed with a four-week focus on foundational skills that promote lifestyle balance followed by four weeks of sessions on specific occupations in which participants mainly engage.

This project allows for another step for occupational therapy as a field to expand into an emerging area of practice. Currently, there is limited support for occupational therapists (OTs) working with human trafficking survivors even though they are particularly skilled to address the barriers that this population faces. As demonstrated by this project, OTs can provide meaningful and effective services for sex trafficking survivors. Further research and program development should be conducted to continue to provide evidence-based practice for OTs working with this population and establish it as a consistent area of practice.

As of 2016, there is an estimated 35.8 million people who are victims of human trafficking (Gorman & Hatkevich, 2016). There are overwhelming and lasting effects that human trafficking survivors and their families face such as mental, physical, social, and economic challenges (Rajaram & Tidball, 2018). The purpose of this project is to utilize an occupational therapy lens to evaluate the needs of human trafficking survivors to promote community reintegration, while considering their roles, routines, and significant occupations and how these may have been disrupted by their lived experience as survivors.

Observations of the established programming and the participants over 4 months, informal interviews with staff and participants, education through weekly life skills classes, concept mapping, and discussions on occupations were made as part of the needs assessment. Participants reported struggling in eight out of nine areas of occupation outlined in the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process, 4th edition (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2020). Several themes were found in the needs assessment: a need for support in self-care, areas of desired skill development, improved social participation, and other areas of occupation. However, the main theme found in the needs assessment is that participants had difficulty balancing all the important activities in their lives, which has impacted their ability to reintegrate into the community. An eight-week “Lifestyle Balance” program was designed with a four-week focus on foundational skills that promote lifestyle balance followed by four weeks of sessions on specific occupations in which participants mainly engage.

This project allows for another step for occupational therapy as a field to expand into an emerging area of practice. Currently, there is limited support for occupational therapists (OTs) working with human trafficking survivors even though they are particularly skilled to address the barriers that this population faces. As demonstrated by this project, OTs can provide meaningful and effective services for sex trafficking survivors. Further research and program development should be conducted to continue to provide evidence-based practice for OTs working with this population and establish it as a consistent area of practice.

Publication Date

Summer 8-12-2021

Publisher

University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences

Medical Subject Headings

Human Trafficking, Survivors, Occupational Therapy, Self Care, Social Participation, Needs Assessment, Program Development

Comments

Poster presented at the Summer 2021 Virtual OTD Capstone Symposium at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences held online on August 12, 2021.

The Role of Occupational Therapy in Promoting Lifestyle Balance for Sex Trafficking Survivors

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