While celebrating Occupational Therapy Month, I took the time to reflect on what the field means to me and how it has shaped my professional journey. Fifteen years ago, I entered the field with a vision and an insatiable hunger to support children and families with innovative, multidisciplinary therapy. Back then, I was the mentee, eagerly soaking up every piece of wisdom, advice, and critique from Dr Gary Kielhofner, DrPH, OTR, FAOTA, Dr. Renee Taylor, PhD and Dr. Brent Braveman, OTR, PhD, FAOTA, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Now, I am the CEO and Founder of three companies, Eyas Landing, Blue Bird Day, and Merlin Day Academy. 

OT Month has given me the time to marvel at the metamorphosis of my role—from being the student to becoming the teacher. Watching the children and clinicians across my 5 centers engaging in playful collaboration reminds me of the broader impact of our work. These interactions, though seemingly simple, were underpinned by a philosophy of support, growth, and mutual learning that mirrored the mentorship which had been so crucial to my own development. Recently, I observed clients engaging with a new therapist, their interactions filled with learning and collaboration. I had recently collaborated with this therapist and felt a sense of pride witnessing the application of our discussed strategies. I am continually inspired by the dedication my team shows every day. “We’ve built a strong foundation for our practice,” I affirmed in my thoughts. 

Mentorship, I realized, is more than just the transfer of knowledge; it is the cultivation of a nurturing environment that enables individuals to explore their potential, without fear. It is a relationship built on trust, respect, and the shared joy of seeing one another succeed. This ethos has become the foundation of Eyas Landing, Merlin Day Academy and Blue Bird Day. Places where every team member, client, and family feels valued and empowered to lend their expertise. 

My mentorship journey began in my first year at the Occupational Therapy program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where I entered with high hopes and the dream of revolutionizing OT practice. Packed with ideas and an insatiable thirst for innovation, a lecture in my OT theory class by Professor Gary Kielhofner, DrPH, OTR, FAOTA, became the turning point in my life. His words sang to me, resonating deeply, igniting a passion that would shape my career. I cherished every opportunity to gain experience from Professor Kielhofner, absorbing his wisdom with an eager spirit. Enrolling in the community practice program under his guidance, I was introduced to the Model of Human Occupation (MOHO), a theory that instantly clicked with my vision for the future of OT. MOHO’s integrated approach to understanding clients’ interactions with their environment through volition, habituation, and performance skills became the foundation upon which I built my companies. In the following year, Professor Kielhofner was my advisor and mentor solidifying my path and teaching me five valuable lessons.

5 Lasting Lessons  

  1. Clarified career goals: Professor Kielhofner helped me map out my career path by discussing short-term and long-term goals. An invaluable part of this mentorship was setting specific and achievable steps for these goals to gauge my progress and focus my efforts.
  2. Client-Centered Practice & The Power of Habit: Professor Kielhofner emphasized the importance of a client-centered approach and the essential work of recognizing the unique preferences, needs, and goals of each client. A client-centered approach ensures that the care provided is not just effective but also respectful and empowering. Understanding the Client-Centered Approach. Habits play a pivotal role in our lives, shaping our daily routines and, by extension, our health and wellbeing. Professor Kielhofner illustrated how understanding and modifying habits can be a powerful tool in OT practice. To explore the fascinating insights into how habits are formed and how they can be changed to transform our lives and businesses, check out Charles Duhigg’s  The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.
  3. Meaningful Engagement & Respect for Client’s Autonomy: Under Professor Kielhofner’s guidance, I learned that at the heart of effective OT practice is the facilitation of meaningful engagement. It is not just about a physical act but about connecting clients to activities that hold profound personal significance. This comprehensive guide offers insightful approaches and practical advice: Strategies for Meaningful Client Engagement. (https://www.hbr.org). A fundamental belief that Professor Kielhofner instilled in me was to have the utmost respect for the client’s autonomy. To foster an environment where clients feel supported to make their own decisions. In healthcare, this principle is crucial in ensuring that clients have the right to make informed decisions about their treatment and care. The APA’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct explicitly details the importance of respecting client autonomy. This involves recognizing the rights of individuals to choose, consent, or decline a particular treatment or intervention based on their values, preferences, and express wishes.
  4. The Value of Interdisciplinary Collaboration: OT does not exist in isolation. Professor Kielhofner championed the value of interdisciplinary collaboration, teaching me that integrating perspectives from various fields enriches the therapeutic process and produces better outcomes. For an in-depth exploration of how interdisciplinary teams in public health have fostered innovation and tackled complex health challenges, refer to the report by Stokols et al. (2008) in the Annual Review of Public Health. Access the full text here.
  5. Lifelong Learning: The field of OT is perpetually evolving. Professor Kielhofner exemplified a commitment to lifelong learning, encouraging me to continuously seek out new knowledge and skills. He coined the phrase “become a scholar of the practice.” LinkedIn Learning is an excellent resource for professional development, LinkedIn Learning offers numerous courses on mentorship, leadership, and career development. A study published in the Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions found a strong correlation between healthcare professionals’ engagement in continual learning and improvements in their clinical skills and theoretical knowledge. 


As the CEO and Founder of Eyas Landing, Blue Bird Day, and Merlin Day Academy, I have seen firsthand how the mentorship and professional development we provide to our collaborative, multidisciplinary team supports our staff and clientele. Below are details on the structured mentorship program we provide for new therapists during their first six months of employment paired with season therapist mentors. 

  1. Onboarding Week: New hires go through an onboarding week designed to promote a successful transition into our organization. During this week, they gain an understanding of the processes of care and orient themselves to our environment. The onboarding week includes a blend of in-person and self-guided interactive training, as well as in-person observations of rotations and therapy sessions tailored to their unique role. 
  2. Mentorship: Starting from the second week of training, all new therapists participate in the structured mentorship program including 
    1. Weekly Supervision Sessions: 
      1. First two months: Provided by their onboarding mentor (a senior therapist). 
      2. Months 3-5: Supervision with their Department Head or Lead. 
      3. Final month: Supervision with their Clinic Director. 
    2. During mentorship meetings, new therapists receive session observations from their mentors, along with feedback on client strategies and approaches. 
    3. They also record their therapy sessions for self-reflection and gain a variety of perspectives on their clients. 
    4. Professional goals are collaboratively identified with mentors to promote clinical development, focusing on discipline-specific skills, confidence in procedures, and inter-professional teamwork. 
    5. Progress toward professional goals is evaluated every two months and updated with sequential mentors. 
  3. Clinical Training: New hires receive clinical training on the application of the Intentional Relationship Model, Sensory Integration, and DIR/Floor time within pediatric practice.
  4. Professional Development: We host Professional Development training throughout the year to keep our team on the cutting edge- we’ve hosted trainings on PROMPT for SLPs, Seizure Training from the Epilepsy Foundation, AAC Device training, and many more. All staff are also trained on CPI crisis prevention and intervention training, CPR, First Aide, Food safety & handing, and Sensory equipment competency. 

The mentorship by Professor Kielhofner transcended academics and remains with me today. His teachings embodied a philosophy of empathy, curiosity, and unwavering commitment to human dignity, and I am so grateful for his mentorship. 

For students and career changers navigating the complexities of their chosen fields, having a mentor can be the catalyst to meaningful change. Mentors serve not only as guides but as advocates, cheerleaders, and invaluable resources. 

 For my fellow Occupational Therapists, whether you are in the nascent stages of your career or seasoned in the field, I share these insights in hope that they too will inspire you. 

Remember, mentoring is a two-way street, benefiting both parties involved. Whether you are a mentee seeking guidance or a potential mentor looking to be effective, consider the powerful impact of mentorship in your professional journey. 🌟🤝 

To learn more about my experiences with mentorship, check out From Mentee to Mentor: 5 Lessons I Learned in Professional Development.

Learn More About My Programs

Blue Bird Day is a rotational therapy program structured like a preschool or kindergarten, but instead of teachers all our staff are therapists! This program is designed to foster socialization, sensory regulation, and learning for children ages 2-7 and helps provide children the tools they need to succeed in a traditional classroom.

Eyas Landing is an outpatient therapy clinic that provides services for children ages 0-21. Our multidisciplinary team of therapists provide ABA, developmental, occupational, physical, speech, nutrition and feeding therapy along with early intervention, social work, counseling, and neuropsychological testing at our West Loop clinic, in-home, at school, and virtually.

Merlin Day Academy is a therapeutic day school for children ages 6-14. Our proprietary model utilizes daily therapeutic and educational rotations to support children’s growth, learning, and their transition into the least restrictive environment possible.

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