GETTING STARTED 

Breaking into a new area of practice can be a daunting undertaking.  Unless provided with direct access to an academic learning opportunity or mentoring relationship in the realm of women's health, most occupational therapists are unclear as to how to proceed in this area of specialization.  There are a number of ways to get educated on the topics that pertain to the WH agenda.  One, is to do your research.  With web-based access to professional databases and evidence-based literature, the potential for self-education is limited only by the individual's confidence in their ability to discern and synthesize the information that they are consuming.

For the busy healthcare professional that does not feel they are capable of investing the necessary time and energy into an independent query of research, a plethora of organized online and on-site learning opportunities exist.  Many continuing education providers have created certification programs that substantiate the breadth of learning that the professional has dedicated to the extent of their practice specialization.  Other vendors and providers offer individual training and learning forums.  Certification is not required to practice in the domain of women's health, but advanced training in certain areas of specialized practice is required.  This is particularly true for specialized areas such as pelvic health, where practitioners are trained in how to perform internal (intra-vaginal and intra-rectal) assessment and intervention strategies.  

Why consider a certification?...

The textbook reason for 'why certification adds value' is driven by the systemic healthcare movement to improve QUALITY.  Within the greater healthcare system, regulators, certifiers, and accreditors exist as tools to influence quality through the development of standards and guidelines which drive accountability (Joshi, Ransom, Nash, & Ransom, 2014).  Accreditation (at the organizational level) and certification (at the individual level) are formal means by which the healthcare industry is able to denote that "a process by which an entity external to the organization providing goods or services evaluates that organization against a set of predetermined requirements or desirable attributes and publicly attests to the results" (Joshi et al., 2014, p. 495).  

 

In short, being certified in a specific facet of healthcare practice means that an outside entity has verified the soundness of evidence-based practice assessment, implementation of care, and quality of outcomes.  This adds value to the overall healthcare system by denoting who to trust as experts in a given field, not only by consumers of care, but by the collaborative healthcare team that may be working directly along side of, or referring to such professional areas of practice.  

 

Professional organizations, such as the AOTA, often drive the "development of educational initiatives, tools for providers to incorporate into practice, and certification programs that recognize competence in specific areas" (Joshi et al., 2014, p. 462).  As the AOTA does not have an official position statement on the practice of women's health, nor a synthesized certification program to guide practitioners seeking specialization in this area, many professionals are seeking certification from trans-disciplinary educators. 

Where to begin?... 

The below content outlines various ways and avenues in which occupational therapists are pursuing such specialized education and certifications in women's health topics.  It is important to note that 'women's health' is a complex and nuanced domain of healthcare.  The included content seeks to online ways in which the OT may be contributing to the realm of women's health via direct components of the OTPF, but said information is not exhaustive in its representation.  Additionally, it is not the objective of The Women's Health OT to endorse or promote any organization, course, or educator in the included content. The information provided is strictly offered as a 'starting point' of where to explore the potentials of practice specialization (as there are many that can be considered). 

Interested in beginning a career in Pelvic Health?

Check out the Blog section to read the candied interviews with Sujata Martin, MS OTR/L, CD, postpartum specialist, and Kayla Bryant, MOT, OTR/L, pediatric specialist, to see how they got inspired, got motivated, and got started in this area of practice.  

Aspects of Clinical Application: 
  • Biomechanical mobilization/manual therapy of the pelvic floor musculature, fascial layer, and surrounding soft tissues

  • Strengthening, conditioning, and coordination training of pelvic floor musculature 

  • Neuromuscular re-education of pelvic floor musculature

  • Neuromuscular re-education of hip/spinal kinematics and postural patterning to promote optimal systemic function of kinetic chain

  • Compensatory and adaptive strategies with and without use of adaptive equipment to achieve bowel, bladder, and sexual participation and/or independence

  • Bowel and bladder retraining programs 

  • Nutrition and lifestyle education to promote functional independence and systemic optimization 

  • Biopsychosocial adaptations and interventions to optimize occupational performance, engagement, and perceived success in day-to-day living. 

Potential Certifications:

Biofeedback Certification International Alliance

  • Board Certified in Biofeedback for Pelvic Muscle Dysfunction (BCB-PMD)

- find a class @ www.pelvicfloorbiofeedback.com, to certify with Tiffany Ellsworth Lee, OTR/L, BCB-PMD, PRPC

Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehab Institute

  • Pelvic Rehab Practitioner Certification (PRPC)

Specialized Training/Education:

The Barral Institute 

  • Visceral Manipulation Certification Program (two levels) (external)

 

John F. Barnes Myofascial Release Treatment Centers and Seminars

  • Women’s Health Seminar (internal)

  • Fascial-Pelvis Myofascial Release (external)

Lindsey Vestal's Courses (The Functional Pelvis)

  • OT Pioneers: Introduction to Pelvic Floor Therapy for Occupational Therapists (online)

 

Burrell Education 

  • Pelvic Floor and Core Foundations Workshop ONLINE

PESI, inc. (offering MANY online and in-person seminars)

  • 3-Day Comprehensive Training in Women’s Health (digital seminar) 

PELVIC HEALTH
MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH
Aspects of Clinical Application: 
  • Applies standardized screening for perinatal mood disorders in the postpartum window

  • Collaborates inter-disciplinarily to achieve best-practice outcomes for mothers identified with perinatal mood disorders

  • Biopsychosocial assessment and intervention planning relative to the occupational profile and perceived impact upon quality of life related to the direct occupation and role of ‘motherhood’

  • Applies specific knowledge of unique neuroendocrine (hormonal) function pertaining to the peri- or postpartum female

  • Facilitated and directed occupational engagement to achieve and promote improved quality of life, self-efficacy, and biopsychosocial engagement   

  • Actionable interventions to promote and achieve improved interpersonal, intrapersonal, and socialized experiences of health and wellness 

Potential Certifications:

Postpartum Support International

  • Certification in Perinatal Mental Health (PMH-C)

Specialized Training/Education:

PESI, inc. (offering MANY online and in-person seminars)

  • Postpartum Depression & Related Disorders (digital seminar)  

  • 3-Day Comprehensive Training in Women’s Health (digital seminar) 

Interested in beginning a career in Maternal Mental Health?

Check out the Blog section to read an inspiring interview with Natalie Brunswick, MScOT to see how she got inspired, got motivated, and got started in this area of practice.  

PERI- & POSTPARTUM WELLNESS/EXERCISE
Aspects of Clinical Application: 
  • Movement based interventions to facilitate systemic strength, endurance, coordination, and postural awareness in the postpartum client

  • Application of manual and soft tissue mobilization techniques to decrease pain, stress, and fatigue

  • Education of self-management strategies and techniques to promote continuation of physical maintenance programs

  • Promotion of biopsychosocial wellness across the occupational profile through facilitated and directed engagement in meaningful occupation  

  • Facilitation and home-program education for self-care routines to promote stress reduction, mindfulness, quality sleep routines, and cognitive-behavioral strategies to offset “the baby blues” in transition to the 4th trimester.

  •  Promotion of optimal nutrition for ideal self-care and systemic healing in the postpartum recovery period. 

Potential Certifications:

Professional Yoga Therapy Institute

  • Professional Yoga Therapist Certifications (PYT) Levels I, II, & III

 

Lauren Ohayon 

  • Restore Your Core™  Certification (for established yoga, Pilates & fitness instructors)

 

Institute for Birth Healing 

  • Birth Healing Specialist Certification

 

Specialized Training/Education:

Herman and Wallace Pelvic Rehab Institute

  • Pregnancy and Postpartum Series (3 courses offered)

  • Yoga, Pilates, & Exercise (3 courses offered) 

  • Hypopressive Courses (2 courses offered)

 

 Burrell Education

  • Introductory and Advanced Pregnancy Wellness Practitioner Courses 

  • Introductory and Advanced Post Natal Wellness Practitioner Courses 

  • Nutritional and Lifestyle Education for Post Natal Healing

  • Safe Return to Strength Training Post Natal 

 

Ginger Garner (founder of PYTI) yoga courses on YogaUOnline

  • Yoga for Women’s Health – Avoiding Common Post-Pregnancy Health Issues (free download!)

  • Yoga for Women’s Health: Common Birth Related Issues and How to Prevent or Relieve Them

LACTATION CONSULTATION/ EDUCATION
Aspects of Clinical Application: 
  • Promotes best-practice standards of care through education and engagement in co-occupation of breastfeeding/pumping. 

  • Provides reinforcement, support, adaptive strategies, and compensatory techniques for mothers seeking assistance, intervention, and solutions for the task of breastfeeding/pumping challenges, difficulties, or barriers

  • Promotes the active engagement in breastfeeding/pumping to achieve infant-maternal bonding and improved developmental outcomes of infant.

  • Determines biopsychosocial adaptations and interventions to optimize occupational performance, engagement, and perceived success in day-to-day living while engaged in the ongoing ADL of breastfeeding/pumping.

Potential Certifications/Specialized Training:

International Lactation Consultant Association

  • International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) considered the 'gold standard'

 

Lactation Education Consultants 

  • Certified Lactation Specialist (CLS) 

(recognized as a stepping stone to the IBCLC)

 

Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice 

  • Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC)

 

CAPPA

  • Certified Lactation Educator ™ (CLE®)

 

Childbirth International 

  • Certified Breastfeeding Counselor (CBC)

Interested in beginning a career in Lactation Consultation?

Check out the Blog section to read the duel interview with Dairian Roberts, MS, OTR/L, CLEC, NCS & Marissa Yahil, MS OT, OTR/L, CBS -- founders of The Lactation OT to see how they got going in this practice specialty.

GRIEF & TRAUMA
ASSOCIATED WITH PREGNANCY & INFANT LOSS
Aspects of Clinical Application: 
  • Utilizes standardized screening tools to determine psychological impact of experienced loss

  • Collaborates with interprofessional team to provide best-practice comprehensive care as necessary

  • Assesses biopsychosocial impact of experienced bereavement, grief, or trauma to the individual’s occupational profile

  • Applies specific knowledge of unique neuroendocrine (hormonal) function pertaining to the peri- or postpartum female

  • Applies specific knowledge of biological differences in the female brain’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis response to stress 

  • Actionable mind-body interventions to promote and achieve improved interpersonal, intrapersonal, and socialized experiences of health and wellness 

  • Facilitated and directed occupational engagement to achieve and promote improved quality of life, self-efficacy, and biopsychosocial engagement   

  • Health promotion at the individual and community-level pertaining to understand and manage through lifestyle grief’s impact upon metabolic systems, sleep cycles, perceptions of physical pain, and mood regulation. 

International Association of Trauma Professionals

  • Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCPT)

Specialized Training/Education:

PESI, inc. (offering MANY online and in-person seminars)

  • Treating Complicated Bereavement: Clinical Approaches for Client & Community Following Traumatic Loss (digital seminar)

  • Art Therapy for Grief & Loss (digital seminar)

  • David Kessler on Healing Grief & Loss (online course)

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Trauma, PTSD, and Grief (digital seminar)

Potential Certifications:
SEXUAL ASSAULT & PTSD
Aspects of Clinical Application: 
  • Applies standardized screening for trauma exposure

  • Collaborates inter-disciplinarily to achieve best-practice outcomes for women identified with PTSD

  • Biopsychosocial assessment and intervention planning relative to the occupational profile and perceived impact upon quality of life 

  • Actionable interventions to promote optimal function and regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis

  • Education and training for execution of mind-body practices designed to 'down train' the autonomic nervous system (ANS); and facilitated transition to parasympathetic state

  • Facilitation of soft tissue and musculo-structural mobilization to diminish systemic fatigue, pain, and guarding response 

  • Education and health promotion of lifestyle management pertaining to nutrition/diet, sleep habits, and social patterning

Potential Certifications:

International Association of Trauma Professionals

  • Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCPT)

Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute 

  • Somatic Experiencing ™ Professional Training 

Specialized Training/Education:

PESI, inc. (offering MANY online and in-person seminars)

  • Restoring Life After Sexual Trauma (digital seminar) 

  • Sexually Exploited Children and Adolescents (digital seminar)

  •  PTSD and Trauma in Children and Adolescents: Assessment and Effective Treatment (digital seminar)

  • Advanced Mindfulness Toolbox for Rewiring the Brain: Intensive Mindfulness Training for Anxiety, Depression, Pain, PTSD, and Stress-Related Symptoms (online course)

Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehab Institute 

  • Trauma Awareness for the Pelvic Therapist 

SEXUAL HEALTH & INTIMACY

  • Biopsychosocial assessment of implications pertaining to the client’s relationships with the ADL of ‘sexual activity’ across the occupational profile 

  • Provides individual and community-level education and health promotion pertaining to 

    • sexual health; 

    • sexual reproductive anatomy and physiology; 

    • family planning, use of contraception, and preparations for pregnancy/childbirth; 

    • sexually transmitted infections; 

    • gender identity and roles; gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered issues;

    • sexual function and dysfunction;

    • sexual pleasure;

    • sexual variation;

    • sexuality and disability; 

    • sexuality and chronic illness;

    • sexual development across the lifespan;

    • sexual abuse, assault, and coercion; and

    • sexuality across cultures 

  • Works with clients in individualized treatment scenarios to achieve client-centered goals relative to the ADL of ‘sexual activity’ through adaptive, remedial, or compensatory strategies. 

Potential Certifications:

American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT)

  • Certified Sexuality Educator 

  • Certified Sexuality Counselor 

Specialized Training/Education:

International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health 

  • CME E-learning modules available on ISSM University (9 courses)

  • Female Sexual Dysfunction and Nomenclature 

  • Hormone Dependent Sexual Dysfunctions in Pre and Postmenopausal Women…

  • How to Take a Sexual History, Screen a Patient, and Utilize Relevant Health Questionnaires 

  • Management of Arousal Disorders, From Anatomy Through Diagnosis and Treatment 

  • Management of Acquired, Generalized Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD): Neurophysiology, Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Management of Orgasm Disorders, From Anatomy Through Diagnosis to Treatment

  • Management of Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder, From Anatomy Through Diagnosis to Treatment

  • Management of Sexual Pain Disorders; From Anatomy Through Diagnosis to Treatment

  • Understanding Hormone Therapy and the Roles of Estrogen, Androgens, and Progestogens 

Aspects of Clinical Application: 
MENOPAUSAL HEALTH & WELLNESS
Aspects of Clinical Application: 
  • Biopsychosocial assessment and intervention planning relative to menopausal impact on the occupational profile

  • Individual and community-level health promotion to increase awareness and improve lifestyle management pertaining to aspects of neuroendocrine, metabolic, cognitive, and osteopathic systems

  • Strengthening, conditioning, and postural retraining to facilitate optimal musculoskeletal alignment and function specific to the peri- and post menopausal woman

  • Facilitated and directed occupational engagement to achieve and promote improved quality of life, self-efficacy, and biopsychosocial engagement   

Potential Certifications/
Specialized Training:

The North American Menopause Society 

  • NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner (NCMP)

Burrell Education 

  • 3rd Age Woman Peri-to-Post Menopause Certification 

BREAST & GYNECOLOGICAL ONCOLOGY
Aspects of Clinical Application: 
  • Biopsychosocial assessment and intervention planning relative to oncological impact to the occupational profile

  • Facilitated and directed occupational engagement to achieve and promote improved quality of life, self-efficacy, and social engagement   

  • Actionable mind-body interventions to promote and achieve improved life balance, stress management, and perceived quality of life

  • Educate and facilitate range of motion, active/passive stretching, and progressive strengthening protocols post-operatively to improve functional performance

  • Facilitation and training for self-care techniques of scar tissue adhesion management and recovery

  • Provide adaptive and compensatory strategies for completion of routine ADLs post-operatively 

  • Biomechanical applications of manual lymph drainage, complete lymphatic drainage, or lymphatic compression as appropriate

  • Health promotion of lifestyle management and nutritional considerations for systemic optimization 

Potential Certifications:

Academy of Lymphatic Studies 

  • Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT)

 

ILWTI

  • Comprehensive Oncology Rehabilitation Expert (CORE) Certification 

Specialized Training/Education:

Physiological Oncology Rehabilitation Institute

  • Breast Cancer Rehabilitation (course)

  • Pelvic Cancer Rehabilitation (course)

 

Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehab Institute 

  • Oncology of the Pelvic Floor (3 course series) 

  • Breast Cancer Rehabilitation 

 

Burrell Education 

  • Optimal Health After Hysterectomy 

NUTRITION
Aspects of Clinical Application: 
  • Applies knowledge of nutrition based ‘lifestyle medicine’ to the impact upon neuroendocrine (hormonal) function, based on EBR specific to female biology across the life course

  • Biopsychosocial assessment of nutritional impact upon aspects of the occupational profile

  • Provides individualized nutrition assessment and planning to impact lifestyle and functional performance. 

  • Coaches and facilitates health promoting strategies with nutritional choices, food preparation, and consumption habits.

  • Provides individual and community-level education and advocacy pertaining to impact of dietary nutrition and hydration.

Potential Certifications:

Institute of Functional Medicine 

  • Functional Medicine Certification Program (IFMCP)

 

American College of Lifestyle Medicine 

  • Certified Lifestyle Medicine Professional

 

Integrative Institute of Nutrition 

  • Health Coaching Certification

Specialized Training/Education:

Stanford Center for Health Education 

  • Nutrition Science (online short course) 

SLEEP & REST
Aspects of Clinical Application: 
  • Biopsychosocial assessment and intervention planning relative to the impact of the ADL ‘sleep’ upon the entire occupational profile 

  • Provides individualized and co-occupation education and intervention planning pertaining to the needed adaptations and modifications for the necessary environments, routines, habituations, and personal factors that affect quality sleep acquisition 

  • Actionable mind-body interventions to promote and achieve improved life balance, stress management, and mental processing in the promotion of improved 'sleep' ADL

  • Provides health promotion education relative to the impact of lifestyle and nutrition upon sleep performance 

  • Applies specific knowledge of unique neuroendocrine (hormonal) function pertaining to the female brain’s relationships with sleep

Potential Certifications/
Specialized Training:

International Parenting and Health Institute

  • Maternity and Child Sleep Consultant (IMPI)

 

Family Sleep Institute 

  • Child Sleep Consultant Certification 

 

Spencer Institute 

  • Sleep Science Coach Certification 

Resource Recommendation: 
WORKPLACE WELLNESS & CAREER COACHING
Aspects of Clinical Application: 
  • Applies knowledge of occupational habits, roles, contexts, and environments to the workplace domain

  • Provides individualized and organizational level remedial and adaptive solutions to improve workplace or work-based functions, outcomes, perceptions of wellness, and overall quality of performance

  • Applies specific knowledge of female-driven workplace needs and barriers to achieve successful acquisition of goals and objectives. 

Potential Certifications:

International Coach Federation (ICF) (offering 3 levels of certification) 

  • Accredited Certified Coach (ACC)

  • Professional Certified Coach (PCC)

  • Master Certified Coach (MCC)

 

Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE)

  • Board-Certified Coach (BCC)

 

Life Purpose Institute 

  • Life Coach Certification Program (CLC)

  • Spiritual Coach Certification Program (CSC)

  • Advanced Life Coach Training (ALC) (stepping-stone to obtain an ICF credential)

 

Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PARW/CC)

  • Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC)

 

 

Wellness Council of America (WELCOA)

  • (Multiple courses)

 

Corporate Health Wellness Association

  • Offering digital courses

REFERENCES

Joshi, M. S., Ransom, E. R., Nash, D. B. & Ransom, S. B., eds. (2014).  The healthcare quality book: Vision, strategy, and tools (3rd ed.).  Chicago, IL: Health Administration Press. 

Contact & Connect

Heather M. Truog, OTD, OTR/L, PYT​​

email: heather@thewomenshealthot.com

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Original publication July 12, 2019

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