What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy, often abbreviated as “OT“, is an applied science and health profession that provides skilled treatment to help individuals achieve and maintain independence in all facets of their lives. OT gives people the “skills for the job of living” necessary for independent and satisfying lives.

People who work in the Occupational Therapy field can be credentialed as Occupational Therapists or as Occupational Therapy Assistants (OTA).

The World Federation of Occupational Therapists provides the following definition of Occupational Therapy:

“Occupational therapy is a profession concerned with promoting health and well being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by enabling people to do things that will enhance their ability to participate or by modifying the environment to better support participation.”

What does it take to be an OT or COTA?

An occupational therapist completes a 5 or 6-year post-baccalaureate occupational therapy degree. An occupational therapy assistant completes a 2-year associate degree program. Both must complete a supervised fieldwork program during their studies and pass a national certification exam (NBCOT).

Many states require continuing education courses to be taken to maintain licensing (state-specific requirements).

What kind of problems can OT treat?

Occupational therapy can treat any physical, emotional, or mental problem that interferes with a person’s ability to perform activities of daily living.

Occupational therapy can be provided for anyone from babies to older adults.

Some typical injuries or illnesses that occupational therapy can treat include paralysis, hand injuries, joint disease, limited movement, cognitive impairments, inability to perform personal care tasks and other activities of daily living (ADL), and many more.

What are the areas of practice for OTs in physical health?

  • Pediatric – schools, community, hospitals, outpatient clinics.
  • Acute care hospitals
  • Inpatient rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation centers – treating stroke (CVA), spinal cord injuries, head injuries
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Home health
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Specialist assessment centers
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Productive aging
  • Mental health

What is the Occupational Therapy process?

  • Referral
  • Information gathering
  • Initial assessment
  • Needs identification/problem formation
  • Goal setting
  • Action planning
  • Action
  • Ongoing assessment and revision of action
  • Outcome and outcome measurement
  • End of intervention or discharge
  • Review

What are the goals of Occupational Therapy?

The goal is to increase function and independence in regards to physical disability and limitations in order to enable a person to perform the activities alone, with limited help, or with the use of devices. With occupational therapy treatment, a person can become more independent.

What kind of treatments are used in OT?

There are many ways to provide occupational therapy. Depending on the cause of the problem, each person is evaluated and a treatment plan is specifically designed to fit his/her needs. The first step in treatment is an evaluation process by the therapist. This helps the therapist determine the best treatment plan and frequency of treatments.

Does insurance cover Occupational Therapy?

Most health insurance policies will cover occupational therapy.

Some insurance companies might have limits to the number of covered treatments in 1 calendar year. It is best to consult with your insurance carrier for further information.

Job Outlook for Occupational Therapists

Employment is expected to grow much faster than average. Occupational Therapy Job opportunities should be good especially for occupational therapists treating the elderly. [Source: bls.gov]

See Also

Wikipedia – Occupational Therapy
Wikipedia – Occupational Therapist
Occupational Outlook Handbook (Occupational Therapists)

(Last updated on April 16th, 2020)