A Change Agent for the OT Profession
Sheela Ivlev is an OTR who advocates for the OT profession and promotes the value of OT for all through targeted work that builds on strengths and removes barriers.
- Published: September 15, 2023
Sheela Ivlev, MS, OTR/L, CIMHP
Owner & Occupational Therapist, OT Bay Area
CEO & Lead Consultant, WellWrx Consulting
Certified in 2012
Creating Solutions by Breaking Barriers
Sheela, an OTR from California, is passionate about removing barriers that prevent people from accessing health and wellness services, particularly mental health care. She emphasizes serving communities of color that have historically faced significant difficulties in accessing appropriate mental health support. She founded her own company, OT Bay Area, after she saw traditional medical model pathways limiting clients’ abilities to access OT-based mental health support. OT Bay Area is an independent OT mental health service that helps “adults to improve physical and mental health, school, work, and daily life participation.” Services are provided in-person and via telehealth. The company also provides pro-bono mental health education groups to the local community.
An unhealthy workplace culture can negatively impact an individual’s well-being and life satisfaction. Sheela had direct experience with this and realized that her experience was not unique. She began providing consultation services to organizations on workplace culture, which resulted in the creation of her second company, WellWrx Consulting. This company offers occupation-based services that support organizations in transforming their workplace culture through creating and implementing inclusive, equitable, and just policies and procedures. The focus is on employees’ well-being and mental health to improve productivity and engagement, decrease employee stress, and increase employee happiness and job satisfaction.
OT Bay Area and WellWrx Consulting both “strive to be truly inclusive, antiracist, and anti-oppressive—a process that is lifelong."
Moving Beyond Reflections
Sheela feels strongly that OT practitioners and leaders being representative of the populations being served, and as such there should be support for the work that they do. The work that Sheela has done and continues to do within the OT profession serves to elevate the voices of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and other minoritized OT practitioners and students. She founded DisruptOT, an international volunteer-based organization dedicated to challenging oppressive systems and the status quo and building community by highlighting global voices. DisruptOT provides free education and opportunities to OT students and practitioners worldwide.
“Sheela is such an impactful human and occupational therapist, and is incredibly deserving of this award. From her development of DisruptOT, providing free and accessible services to the community, supporting workplace wellness, and mentoring students, she is constantly creating spaces to empower, represent, and provide equitable services to all individuals in the community.”
OT Student, San Jose State University
Sheela has also created platforms and supportive spaces for students and practitioners to have a voice and find a community. She has developed mentorship networks to support practitioners working in regions with limited resources. The mentorships enable practitioners and communities of color to improve community health outcomes. She is also a member of the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD) Mentorship Program.
Sheela has also organized education summits and panel discussions that encourage community building and cover topics such as antiracism, decolonization, and gender. Sheela prioritizes global voices and is committed to making access to this critical knowledge free and accessible to all.
“Sheela has been my mentor on my journey to becoming an OTP by helping me to understand my role in how I can best raise up my BIPOC colleagues and the importance of challenging the status quo whenever possible. Sheela’s work has led many OTs, including myself, to commit to a life-long journey of establishing a more inclusive and equitable professional practice for the betterment of our clients.”
Mitchell Hawkins, OTR
A Global Voice
Sheela is a globally recognized voice on occupational therapy, mental health, and anti- oppression work. She has written several articles published on Medium, including “Racism in Healthcare and What We Can Do About It,” “Mental Health Resources for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ Communities,” and “It’s OK to Not Be OK.” She also coauthored the article “Pause, Reflect, Reframe: Deep Discussions on Co-Creating a Decolonial Approach for an Antiracist Framework in Occupational Therapy,” which was published in the journal Occupational Therapy Now.
Sheela has offered her expertise through consulting with state OT associations; initiating and serving on multiple diversity, equity, and inclusion committees; scholarly writing; and serving on committees such as San Francisco's Police Alternatives Steering Committee and the California Coalition for Mental Health. Despite experiencing racism within the profession, she has continued to advocate for the value of OT and needed reform.
Sheela is committed to extensive antiracism, anti-oppression, and culturally relevant care in all that she does. She is a change agent dedicated to creating an OT community that is inclusive at all levels.