What is Occupational Therapy (OT)?

Occupational therapy (OT) helps to develop, recover, or maintain the daily living and work skills of a person with a physical, mental or developmental challenges.

Occupational therapy focuses on adapting the environment, modifying the task, teaching the skill, and educating the person and family on the performance of daily activities.

Occupational therapists may be involved in helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recover from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.

Occupational therapy services may include evaluating of a person’s home, school and work environment to make possible recommendations for adaptive equipment and training, as well as training of family members and caregivers.

Occupational therapy services typically include the following stages:

  • Goals Assessment. An individualized evaluation is performed to determine the person’s goal. The evaluation may include the person’s family.
  • Intervention. Personalized measures are implemented to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals.
  • Evaluation. At various stages, a person’s progress is evaluated to ensure that the goals are being met and to determine if changes should be made to the intervention plan.

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists are medical professionals that are certified by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) after passing a licensing examination. Certified Occupational Therapists typically hold Masters or Doctoral degrees in Occupational Therapy from an accredited institution.

Occupational Therapy – Clinical Areas

Occupational therapists may focus on providing support to people with particular needs.

Children and youth. Occupational therapists work with infants, toddlers, children, and youth and their families in a variety of settings including schools, clinics, and homes. Occupational therapists assist children with feeding, play, social skills, and education. Measures may include:

  • Promoting a wellness program in schools to prevent childhood obesity
  • Facilitating hand writing development in school-aged children
  • Promoting functional skills for living in children with developmental disabilities
  • Providing individualized treatment for sensory processing difficulties
  • Addressing psychosocial needs of a child and teaching effective coping strategies

Mental health. Occupational therapists provide mental health services in a variety of settings including hospitals, day programs, and long-term-care facilities.

Productive aging. Occupational therapists work with older adults to maintain independence, participate in meaningful activities, and live fulfilling lives. Some examples of areas that occupational therapists address with older adults are driving, continuing to live at home, low vision, and dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). To enable independence of older adults at home, occupational therapists perform fall screens and evaluate older adults functioning in their homes and recommend specific home modifications. When addressing low vision, occupational therapists modify tasks and the environment.

Rehabilitation. Occupational therapists address the needs of rehabilitation, disability, and participation.

Work and industry. Occupational therapists may also work with clients who have had an injury and are trying to get back to work. Testing may be completed to simulate work tasks in order to determine best matches for work, accommodations needed at work, or the level of disability. Work conditioning and hardening are approaches used to restore performance skills needed on the job that may have changed due to an illness or injury. Occupational therapists can also prevent work related injuries through ergonomics and on site work evaluations.

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Last updated: 1/8/2019