Alumna Profile: Elizabeth Sherman MOT ‘16
“I really liked what the university was about overall in terms of its commitment to sustainability and women’s leadership, and was really interested in the Occupational Therapy program’s commitment to community health and community-based projects,” Elizabeth Sherman says.
Elizabeth Sherman, MOT ’16, first became interested in occupational therapy when she was working as a camp counselor. “I had to come up with activities for adults with disabilities,” she says, and an OT came in and trained the group. She switched her major from music to exercise science so she could go to OT school, and when the time came to apply for OT schools, applied only to Chatham.
“I really liked what the university was about overall in terms of its commitment to sustainability and women’s leadership, and was really interested in the OT program’s commitment to community health and community-based projects,” she says.
While at Chatham, Sherman took advantage of the opportunities for community fieldwork, doing programs for students with emotional or behavioral disturbances at Friendship Academy, and doing projects with Gwen’s Girls. “I ended up doing a couple of yoga groups with Gwen’s Girls; that was fun!” she says. “I really enjoyed getting involved in the community.”
Sherman had done her yoga teacher training as an undergraduate, and when she came to Chatham, started looking into trauma-sensitive yoga. “It’s a way of facilitating yoga so that people who have experienced complex trauma can access the different healing benefits of yoga,” she explains. “The purpose of it is practicing present-moment experience, so it’s not as much of a focus on the physical workout as it is on connecting to yourself, and making choices for your own body during your practice.” Sherman would go on to earn certification in Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY) facilitation at the Justice Resource Institute’s Center for Trauma and Embodiment.
After graduating with her MOT degree, she spent a year and a half practicing in a private school before transitioning to doing travel therapy in the public schools in Washington state. “I moved across the country with my dog Hunny, and we had a website about our adventures,” she says. “We’ve driven across the country four times together, doing OT.” Sherman and Hunny have recently transitioned back to Pittsburgh, where she owns her own small independent practice called Heart of Gold. “I work with exceptional and/or neuro-diverse children and their families in their homes, doing DIRFloortime® and sensory integration, working on their attunement to their child and understanding how they can support their child’s growth and development, and I also do trauma-sensitive yoga programming in Pittsburgh,” she says.
She’s also online for work a lot—she’ll soon be starting an online doctoral program that was founded by the creators of DIRFloortime®, and, while she expands her practice’s ability to take insurance, she has been working with students who are enrolled in cyber school. “We do handwriting practice, working on organization, typing, and assignment completion. We work on building those skills, and also on building emotional/relational skills—being able to engage with an adult one-on-one for 30 minutes.”
And although she has struck out on her own, her ties with Chatham are strong. “The faculty continues to be incredibly supportive. My advisor was Shari Novalis – when I was at Chatham, she supported me pursuing additional work, doing guest lecturing, applying for fellowships. She’s always been available as an advisor. They always ask me back to come teach or serve on the interview team in different capacities. They’re there when I need them.”
Sherman’s dog has also guest lectured at Chatham. “We do a travel therapy lecture in the fall. We come in and talk about the logistics and share our experience with it. She’s really close with the Chatham family,” she laughs.