The Assortment

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Interdisciplinary Team

holistic rehabilitation idt interdisciplinary care interdiscipline teamwork Mar 15, 2024
An interdisciplinary team cartoon of a doctor, speech therapist, physical therapist, and occupational therapist.

Interdisciplinary Team

Rehabilitation ideally represents many disciplines 

What is an Interdisciplinary Team?

An interdisciplinary team, sometimes called a multidisciplinary team, is a group of different experts who work together to help people with complex needs. This happens a lot in places like hospitals or clinics, especially for things like rehabilitation, mental health, or care for older adults.

The team can include doctors, nurses, therapists (like occupational or physical therapists), speech therapists, social workers, psychologists, dietitians, and others. Each person has their own special skills and knowledge that they bring to the team.

The main goal of an interdisciplinary team is to give coordinated care that focuses on the whole person – not just their physical health, but also their feelings, relationships, and ability to do everyday things. By working together, the team can come up with a plan that fits the person's goals and needs.

Interdisciplinary teams talk a lot and share information so everyone knows what's happening with each person they're helping. They have regular meetings to discuss each person's situation, share updates, and make sure they're all on the same page.

These teams also help with things like making sure someone's care is smooth when they move from one place to another, like from a hospital to a rehab center. This way, there's no interruption in the care they're getting.

What is an example of an Interdisciplinary Rehabilitation Team?

  1. Doctor: The physician, typically a neurologist or physiatrist, oversees the medical management of the patient's condition, provides diagnostic assessments, prescribes medications, and coordinates overall care.

  2. Nurse: The nurse plays a critical role in the rehabilitation team by monitoring the patient's vital signs, administering medications, providing wound care, and coordinating with other team members to ensure continuity of care. Nurses also educate patients and their families about the rehabilitation process and help facilitate their participation in therapy activities.

  3. Physical Therapist (PT): The physical therapist focuses on improving the patient's mobility, strength, balance, and coordination through exercises, gait training, and functional activities. PTs work with the patient to regain independence in activities of daily living and develop strategies to prevent falls and improve overall physical function.

  4. Occupational Therapist (OT): The occupational therapist addresses many of the same functions and structures as the PT but begins the process with a Top-Down inventory of occupational performance goals to ensure the care provided by the team can translate into the patient's day-to-day life after discharge from therapy. OTs also assess and provide interventions to address cognitive, perceptual, upper extremity, and lower extremity deficits that may impact the patient's ability to engage in meaningful activities and return to work or other meaningful roles.

  5. Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP): The speech-language pathologist evaluates and treats communication and swallowing disorders that may result from a stroke. SLPs work with patients to improve speech, language, cognition, and swallowing function through various techniques, exercises, and strategies.

What is the difference between an Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Team?


  • Interdisciplinary collaboration involves professionals from different disciplines working together to address a common problem or achieve a shared goal.
  • In an interdisciplinary approach, each discipline maintains its distinct identity and perspective, contributing its specialized knowledge and skills to the collaborative effort.
  • Interdisciplinary teams typically communicate and coordinate their activities to ensure that each discipline's contributions are integrated into the overall plan.
  • The focus of interdisciplinary collaboration is on sharing information, coordinating efforts, and achieving a common objective while respecting the boundaries and expertise of each discipline involved.


  • Transdisciplinary collaboration goes beyond interdisciplinary collaboration by integrating and transcending the boundaries of individual disciplines to create a holistic understanding of a problem or issue.
  • In a transdisciplinary approach, professionals from different disciplines work together to develop a shared framework or conceptual model that integrates multiple perspectives and disciplines.
  • Transdisciplinary teams blur the lines between disciplines, encouraging members to adopt a more flexible and inclusive mindset that incorporates insights from diverse fields of study.
  • The focus of transdisciplinary collaboration is on synthesizing knowledge, breaking down disciplinary silos, and generating innovative solutions that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries.

My Unsolicited Opinion. 

While being steadfast in my desire to protect the occupational therapy scope of practice, I believe the ideal approach is a transdisciplinary appraoch to healthcare. Nobody benefits from siloed professions, and everyone would benefit from improved trust and mutual respect between them.

That said, I don't think it's realistic because the natural unspoken default of the U.S. Medical Model is hierarchical, with self-imposed superiority complexes that trickle down to the reimbursement model. This has led to a competition mentality between professions in most arenas (I am not saying this is universally true). If we aren't advocating for ourselves and strategically preparing an offensive and defensive game plan, we lose our voice in the team and our place at the table. This is my impression of what has happened to the occupational therapy profession, and I don't know if we will ever come back from it. 

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