Occupational therapy - What is it that you really do?
This is a question I get over and over and I can assure you it is not finding people a job (even though you can work with vocational rehab), the same as physical therapy (even though we work closely together) or "just" getting people dressed (even though we can definitely work with people to achieve this goal!).
In a nutshell, occupational therapy is a health and rehabilitation profession who works with people who have experienced a physical (disability/injury), emotional, developmental or social problem return to being as independent in everyday life as possible through the "occupations" of self-care, work and play/leisure activities. These occupations are everything from getting dressed and getting out of bed, to driving, grocery shopping and even getting back to your golf game! These are the things that we find important (and usually take for granted!) and that we do every day.
The American Occupational Therapy Association's Practice Framework (AOTA, 2014b) defines Occupational Therapy as:
"the therapeutic use of everyday life activities (occupations) with individuals or groups for the purpose of enhancing or enabling participation in roles, habits, and routines in home, school, workplace, community, and other settings. Occupational therapy practitioners use their knowledge of the transactional relationship among the person, his or her engagement in valuable occupations, and the context to design occupation-based intervention plans that facilitate change or growth in client factors (body functions, body structures, values, beliefs, and spirituality) and skills (motor, process, and social interaction) needed for successful participation. Occupational therapy practitioners are concerned with the end result of participation and thus enable engagement through adaptations and modifications to the environment or objects within the environment when needed. Occupational therapy services are provided for habilitation, rehabilitation, and promotion of health and wellness for clients with disability- and non–disability related needs. These services include acquisition and preservation of occupational identity for those who have or are are at risk for developing an illness, injury, disease, disorder, condition, impairment, disability, activity limitation, or participation restriction."
YES! This exactly explains it!
But, wait...what is it that occupational therapists actually do?
Here are some examples of the variety of people that Occupational Therapists can work with:
- Someone has had a stroke and wants to be able to get dressed on their own again using only one hand.
- Someone has just returned from war and needs to learn how to use their prosthetic arm to write.
- Someone is an at-risk youth and needs to learn new skills on how to build healthy relationships to stay out of gangs.
- Someone's child has a developmental disability and is having a hard time eating foods because they can't handle textures.
- Someone has dementia and their family wants to know how to get them to bathe.
- Someone is returning back to construction work after a shoulder injury and needs to gain strength and endurance in order to work a 10 hour day.
- Someone has schizophrenia and needs help learning how to manage their money in order to buy their own groceries.
- Someone has a spinal cord injury and wants to be able to find the best electric wheelchair and learn how to use it to keep them from getting pressure sores.
- Someone wants to return home after a short stay at a nursing home and needs recommendations for home safety tips and equipment.
And this list goes on and on.
I love being an occupational therapist for so many reasons, but one of the main reasons is that I truly believe that
Occupational therapy directly helps people achieve the goals that they want for a successful life.
And that's a beautiful thing...
To learn more about why I became an Occupational Therapist, check out the About Seniors Flourish Page or OTPotential.com has a really great post explaining OT with tons of references and links to international OT organizations.
Have you or your family member ever worked with an Occupational Therapist?
If so, leave a comment below. I would love to hear about it - the good, the bad and the ugly!