Therapeutic science as a field of study reflects what the World Health Organization has identified as a new paradigm for understanding and studying disability. The emphasis here is on understanding the consequences of health conditions for the person, rather than the health condition itself.
Therapeutic science is an interdisciplinary program that involves faculty across a variety of departments and schools at KU. This program is part of a growing trend to provide interdisciplinary doctoral-level training to address issues related to disability. The KU Therapeutic Science degree program is administered through the Department of Occupational Therapy Education in the KU School of Health Professions.
This program is designed for students whose interests in disability and quality of life require an integrated, interdisciplinary course of study that can not be provided by existing programs. Typically, applicants will already have obtained academic or professional Master's degrees and have a professional credential or identity (e.g., occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, licensed clinical social worker, clinical psychologist, special educator). Many are likely to be currently working in their chosen field related to issues of disability, but now seek to generate knowledge for understanding disability and improving quality of life for individuals with disabilities.
Overview of the Therapeutic Science Program
The interaction of impairment, activity, social participation, and contextual factors provides a basis for understanding the impact of disability on an individual's life. This conceptualization is in line with the recent Institute of Medicine (IOM; 1997) model of disability, which recognized that disability is not longer inherent in the individual, but is an outcome of the interaction of the person and their physical, social, and psychological environment.
Given this complex set of factors that affects disability, an interdisciplinary approach is necessary in order to produce systematic knowledge that improves quality of life for individuals with disabilities. This approach requires a "melding of knowledge from several disciplines to understand the fundamental nature of the enabling-disabling process, that is, how disabling conditions develop, progress, and reverse, and how biological, behavioral, and environmental factors can affect these transitions" (Brant & Pope, 1997, p.4).
The knowledge that comes out of such an approach can then be translated into strategies that prevent or remove functional impairments, and minimize disabling processes that lead to further impairment and limitations. Students in the Therapeutic Science program will learn the processes of knowledge generation and translation into practice, and carry them out in careers that will support of people with disabilities, their families, and their communities.
References: Brant & Pope (1997).