What exactly is Occupational Therapy?

April is Occupational Therapy month!! What better way to celebrate my profession than to share a little bit about what we OT’s really do? I got into occupational therapy because I knew I wanted to be in the healthcare field and really help people live their BEST lives. I’ve been an OT practitioner for 7 years and still love what I do.

I’ve answered some of the major questions we get on the daily basis and debunk any myths or mysteries about occupational therapy.

Sooo “occupational”…that means you help people find jobs?

Not exactly…the term, occupation, is not referring to careers, but rather the daily activities that a person performs. These could be basic activities like dressing, bathing, eating, or more complex activities, like driving, taking care of loved ones, or cleaning the house. Occupations can include hobbies, like knitting, playing the piano, playing sports, or actual jobs like waiting tables, practicing medicine or . Whatever the activity may be, an OT helps the person perform these meaningful activities, or occupations, to the best of the person’s ability.

Is it the same thing as Physical Therapy?

Although OT and PT are both rehab disciplines and there is some overlap, we have different focuses to our treatment. PT is looking at the body from a biomechanical perspective, such as the coordination of muscles and alignment of bones/joints to promote mobility. OT looks at the body as a whole to focus on function and meaningful activities. This includes the cognitive, physical and emotional abilities to perform daily tasks.

Where does an occupational therapist work?

Occupational therapists can be found almost anywhere: Schools, hospitals, sensory clinics, inpatient/outpatient rehab centers, mental health clinics, home health agencies, early intervention, assisted living centers, cancer/oncology centers etc. They may function as consultants to ensure an office has ergonomic workstations, or to ensure a public building or transportation meets ADA-compliance with adequate ramps, elevators, doorways, and accessible bathrooms. They are seen working on Capitol Hill, lobbying and advocating for legislation that supports equal rights for people of all abilities.  Wherever there are people, there is a place for an occupational therapist.

Who does an occupational therapist work with?

Occupational therapists work with people of all types of abilities, disabilities, illnesses or health, which is why we are considered a rehab profession. We focus on promoting wellness, restoring function, and helping to achieve the best quality of life. Here are just SOME of the ages/populations that OT’s work with and a FEW examples of what areas they may address. Click on the links for youtube clips!:

Premature babies in the NICU: helping these tiny, fragile humans to adjust to life outside the womb, so that they may learn to suck, self-soothe, desensitize to the environment and get on track with their development.

Infants/Toddlers in Early Intervention: helping them reach developmental milestones like sitting, crawling, cruising, picking up objects, playing with toys, self-feeding.

Children/Adolescents in school: adapting their environment so that they can focus and participate in a classroom, implementing strategies to address behavior, sensory skills, helping with handwriting, typing, and learning.

Mental health: helping these individuals develop skills and use resources in order to live as independently and safely as possible, including coping skills, socialization, professional behavior, stress-management and self-awareness.

Adults in inpatient/outpatient rehab: helping individuals re-learn skills, activities and roles following an acute illness or injury, including ADLs (activities of daily living- bathing, dressing, eating), returning to work.

Older adults: helping aging adults continue to live as independently and as safely as possible, whether it is in their own home, community or facility. A focus is also on providing support and guidance for the families or caregivers.

For more info about who/what/where on OT, check out AOTA.org

 

So this is occupational therapy in a nutshell (even if it was long-winded nutshell, I could go on for much longer). For the rest of April, I plan on hosting other occupational therapists as guest-writers on the blog, so that you can get an inside look into what they do and get some free tips/advice! STAY TUNED!

Happy Occupational Therapy month to all my fellow OT practitioners!

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