Christy Billock photo

Billock Granted Award of Excellence from the Occupational Therapy Association of California

Christy Billock, Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) Professor and Founding Program Director of the Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program, was recently granted the Award of Excellence from the Occupational Therapy Association of California. The award recognizes an occupational therapy (OT) practitioner who has made significant contributions to the advancement of the profession.

Billock has been an occupational therapist for 25 years and involved in teaching for 22 years. The award honors the impact she’s had on students over the years through teaching excellence and her influential work on health and wellness, advocacy, and spiritual experience and its connection to overall well-being.

Her work on spirituality as it relates to OT is featured in the latest edition of the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process, the guiding foundational resource for teaching OT students the scope of practice and work of the profession. She’s also published in the last three editions of Willard and Spackman’s Occupational Therapy, a textbook used in most OT programs in the U.S. and many international ones.

Additionally, Billock has created an assessment tool called the Occupational Therapy Spiritual Narrative Assessment for therapists to have a conversation with their clients about how they experience meaning and the role of spirituality in their everyday lives.

“My definition of spirituality is a deep experience of meaning that’s brought about by engaging in an occupation or activity,” Billock said. “If we’re going to have meaning in our lives, we need to find those activities that can really express who we are and exercise those values that we have. From my perspective, spirituality can be brought about by experiencing nature, seeing beauty in the world, connecting with people that we love, cooking a special meal for your family, and for some, religious practices.”

In our modern culture, many people lose touch with this sense of meaning when they become less engaged in life activities and more isolated from those around them.

“Loneliness has become very much a part of life as we know it, even pre-pandemic and even before the internet,” Billock said. “It’s really having an impact on our health and well-being.”

The pandemic has intensified the effects of an imbalanced lifestyle, decreased range of activities, and lack of connection with others, with large numbers of people struggling with anxiety, depression, and substance use and abuse. When news of COVID-19 and lockdowns first hit, Billock took fast action, doing wellness workshops for KGI as well as stress resilience workshops for local healthcare providers.

During spring 2020, she also taught Lifestyle Medicine at KGI for the first time, a course which explores the research evidence on lifestyle factors for health and emphasizes the importance of movement, nutrition, sleep, stress resilience, social connection, and avoidance of risky substances for the treatment and prevention of lifestyle-related diseases.

“It was a wonderful time in the context of the current pandemic to be able to offer a lifestyle medicine and self-care perspective to students,” Billock said.

Billock is excited for the launch of KGI’s OTD program, which is planned for fall 2022 pending accreditation approvals.

“It’s been fantastic to be able to build something from the ground up,” Billock said. “I’ve been focusing on the aspects of the program that are going to make KGI’s OTD unique, that really fit with the mission of the Institute, and that will meet the needs that we have in our community and world right now.”

“The goal is to build a curriculum that will train our students to be future occupational therapists who can be agile problem solvers and innovators.”