Our History

In 1955 the Senior Medical Officer of the Bellevue (Psychiatric) Hospital, Kingston Jamaica, became aware of the benefits of Occupational Therapy in the rehabilitation of Psychiatric Patients. He was instrumental in getting two scholarships which allowed for two Psychiatric Nurses to go to England to be trained as Occupational Therapists. On their return in 1958, they started the first Occupational Therapy Department in Jamaica.

For fourteen years, no other individual was sent for training. However a number of volunteers through the The British Volunteer Services Overseas (BVSO) offered their services here in Jamaica for a number of years.

In the early 1960’s another set of individuals were afforded the opportunity for training and on return were deployed at the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre and the Bellevue Hospital. By the late 1960’s and early 1970’s there were 8 Occupational Therapists working in the diverse areas of rehabilitation (Psychiatry, Physical disabilities, Gerontology, and with Special Needs children in the area of Education).

Migration in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s saw the numbers drastically reduced leaving an inadequate number of therapists to provide some of the services previously offered and to fulfil the demands of the requests for the varying aspects of rehabilitation.

The late 1980’s through to the present has seen several practitioners return to or seek employment in Jamaica. The OTAJ membership is concerned that the Jamaican population is severely underserved because there are not enough practitioners to meet the needs of a growing population.
As more practitioners enter the profession, public awareness of the scope of practice and benefits of Occupational Therapy in the process of rehabilitation and habilitation is growing.

The OTAJ looks forward to having an adequate cadre of qualified practitioners to meet the needs of the Jamaican population.