If you’re cruising along the streets of a Pennsylvania town and pass a car occupied by two people who seem to be thoroughly enjoying their drive, you may have just seen Susie Touchinsky and one of her clients.
As “the Driving OT,” Susie has the pleasure of training people who have suffered an injury or illness so that they can drive safely and with confidence.
Susie became an OT (occupational therapist) because the field allowed her to combine science, art, and caring for people. “It seemed like the perfect combination,” she says.
In her private practice, Adaptive Mobility, she provides driver rehab training, helping adults make decisions about their fitness to drive and about adaptive equipment. She continues to do the work started by her mentor, Susan Pierce, who founded Adaptive Mobility’s education program 35 years ago. “She is a pioneer in driving and occupational therapy, and I am honored to continue her legacy of educating OTs on how to be a specialist in the field of driving rehab.”
Helping clients do what they want
The focus of Susie’s practice is examining what occupies a client’s time. If there is an injury or illness that impacts a client’s engagement with that occupation, she works to find a solution. That can mean recovery or rehab, adaptation or remediation. She sees her job as an OT to help clients in a way that works for them and allows them to do what they want.
Guiding clients and their families through the challenges of returning to driving after an injury or illness is one of the most rewarding aspects of Susie’s career. “Again and again clients tell me, ‘I thought I was better, but something felt like it was missing.’” She says that when clients can be on their own and drive again, they feel whole.
Check out how Susie helped Elaine return to driving after losing her right leg.
Helping clients navigate difficult decisions
On the flip side, Susie is grateful for the opportunity to discuss driving retirement, which she says can be the “darkest of days,” with clients. In these moments, Susie uses analysis, science, and research to guide her clinical reasoning. This allows her to approach the situation objectively and help clients arrive at the best decision based on their conditions and performance skills.
“I don’t know any other profession that has the same occupation-based lens that we do,” Susie says. “I love that we use occupation, human factors, and science to guide our clinical reasoning.”
Sharing her knowledge with other OTs
Susie encourages occupational therapy professionals to branch out into private practice and create solutions that go beyond simple reimbursement. “We are strong, independent, creative individuals,” she says. “Don’t settle and be brave.”
She also suggests considering becoming a driver rehab specialist, noting that there are fewer than 700 OTs who specialize in this area. She says the occupational therapy field needs therapists who can address fitness to drive and help people age in place better.