Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


The Philadelphia School of Occupational Therapy (P.S.O.T.) was one of five founding occupational therapy academic programs in the United States. The program was led by two powerful occupational therapists, Helen S. Willard and Clare S. Spackman, for nearly a half century. After 60 years, P.S.O.T. was closed. This article provides a historical overview of the progression of occupational therapy education in the United States over the last century, using the story of P.S.O.T as a case study. The historical legacy and lesson from P.S.O.T. is that excellence in today’s academy may not mean security. Historically relevant today, the interaction between education and societal demands is explored, starting from the founders of the National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy in 1917, through the World Wars, and casting forward. Curricular expansion, the addition of accreditation requirements, financial concerns, and faculty research requirements are presented as influential to the history of occupational therapy education. Lessons for current occupational therapy educational programs are discussed.


Christine O. Peters, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA is an occupational therapy historian and Adjunct Associate Professor of Clinical Occupational Therapy at University of Southern California, Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Los Angeles, CA. Peggy M. Martin, PhD, OTR/L is Director of Occupational Therapy at University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. Wanda J. Mahoney, PhD, OTR/L is Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy at Midwestern University, Downers Grove, IL.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declarations of interest.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.