What is Occupational Therapy?
The term occupational therapy is derived from the two words, “occupation” and “therapy”. Here, the term occupation refers to the daily life activities in which people engage, such as cooking, dressing, personal hygiene, Transferring/Mobility, shopping, and job works. The term therapy refers to treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder.
So, the meaning of Occupational therapy is to help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). The Occupational therapy practitioners are called as an Occupational therapist (OT) and/or Occupational therapy assistant (OTA).
Occupational therapists (OT) help people do the things they want to do, improving their sense of satisfaction and contributing to their subsequent well-being. Occupational therapists work with clients who may have experienced trauma, illness, or developmental issues, or who may simply want to improve their health and wellness. In helping clients gain greater self-awareness through everyday activities, occupational therapists facilitate the patient’s ability to engage in “occupations” which give meaning to the person’s life.
Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in home, school and social situations, helping people recovering from an injury to regain functional skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.
Occupational therapy Philosophy-
The art and science of occupational therapy are to support full participation in life through identified meaningful occupations, which leads to increased health and well-being. Occupational therapy is the profession that provides treatment focused on increased participation in meaningful activities as a method to maximize function, adaptation, and health.
Occupational Therapy services-
Occupational therapy services typically include:
- An individualized evaluation, during which the patient and occupational therapist determine the person’s goals.
- Customized intervention to improve the patient’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals.
- A re-evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan.
Occupational therapy services are provided for habilitation, rehabilitation, and promotion of health and wellness for clients with disabilities and non-disability-related needs.
What Do Occupational Therapists Do?
Occupational therapists (OT’s) use functional activities to improve, restore or maintain the daily living skills. Occupational therapists see a person as a whole and during assessment and treatment, try to cover physical, mental, social and environmental aspects for a better result.
Occupational therapists are health professionals who use occupation and meaningful activities with specific goals to help people of all ages prevent injury, lessen the impairment, improve the functional skills, or adapt to disabilities. The activities may be as basic as bathing/dressing or as complex as operating a computer with modified control switches. Today’s occupational therapists are working in clinical practice, community outreach, education, research, private practice, and many other diverse areas.
OT work directly with patients, helping those master skills for achieving an independent, productive, and satisfying life. OT’s treat patients with a variety of disabilities and help them return to family, work and social life. Among the many opportunities to specialize are pediatrics, gerontology, hand rehabilitation, and mental health.
The community occupational therapist may work with clients who are reintegrating into the community and need assistance in life skills such as anger management, time management, personal hygiene or other skills fundamental to success when returning to one’s family, work, or leisure roles. The expertise of the occupational therapist is key in rebuilding the client’s confidence in ‘doing/participating’ those occupations which were disrupted by illness or trauma.
OT as an Administrator-
Occupational therapists in the administrator role direct the activities of an occupational therapy department, rehabilitation services, or other programs, such as a non-profit shelter for the homeless. Responsibilities might include program planning and management, policy development and budget preparation, staff and client education, and personnel management.
OT in Academics-
Occupational therapy educators design and teach courses, guide students, provide community service, and participate in research. Faculty practice may involve clinical or community roles as supervisors, consultants or direct service providers. For most teaching positions you must have an advanced degree (such as OTD or PhD) as well as practical experience in occupational therapy. The work setting is usually an academic institution such as a state university, medical center campus, or private college.
Occupational therapists use their professional skills to promote health and wellness through occupation include:
- Assisting the physically/mentally ill in returning to home, community or work;
- Providing adaptive equipment and techniques to adults who have had a stroke to help them return to living independently;
- Evaluating and treating children who are slow in development (Developmental delay);
- Assisting clients with cardiac problems in planning their daily activities to promote fitness and independence;
- Providing stress management seminars to company workers or corporate executives to improve the balance of work and leisure interests;
- Providing seminars and consultation to company workers, instructing them in the safe and ergonomically sound approach for the employees to carry out their responsibilities;
- Designing and constructing adaptive equipment to help patients who are injured with a performance of daily tasks.
Occupational therapist Job Outlook and Career Opportunities-
Take a look at these numbers about occupational therapy:
- U.S. News & World Report ranks the Occupational therapist (OT) as #9 out of 34 for the best healthcare jobs.
- Time Magazine reports that the field of Occupational Therapy ranks in the top five of the most in-demand jobs.
There continues to be a high demand for qualified occupational therapists both in traditional and in emerging areas of practice. Societal and cultural changes have contributed to expanded opportunities for occupational therapy services. The following markets are emerging as opportunities for occupational therapists:
Occupational therapists have many exciting career opportunities awaiting them upon graduation. The major areas of employment currently are:
- School systems (public and private)
- Rehabilitation centers
- Hospitals, including VA and military
- Nursing homes
- Mental health centers
- Home health agencies
- Hand clinics
- Ergonomics Consulting
- Design and accessibility consulting and home modification
- Older driver assessment and training
- Consulting to assisted living facilities
- Technology and assistive-device development and consulting
- Health and wellness consulting
- Low-vision rehabilitation
- Addressing Alzheimer’s disease and caregiver training
- Addressing the needs of children and youth.
- Community services
Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process, 3rd Ed. (AOTA, 2014).
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291122.htm)