Movement is an inevitable part of our daily lives. Routine tasks, like picking up your phone or getting dressed may be easy for most. But for some, this is a repeated challenge.
In this blog on occupational therapy, we’ll be answering the following questions:
- What is occupational therapy (OT)?
- What does an occupational therapist do?
- What is the difference between OT and PT?
- What is an example of occupational therapy work?
- How do I see an occupational therapist?
What is Occupational Therapy?
Several factors can cause difficulty in performing daily activities. These include:
- Trauma, mental illness, or behavioral problems
- Disabilities such as autism
- Amputations and burns
- Long-term conditions, congenital disabilities, or chronic illness
No matter the cause, occupational therapists can work with you to strengthen your “occupations” or everyday activities that give you purpose. Occupations fall into nine major categories:
- Health management
- Sleep and rest
- Daily life activities
- Social participation
- Instrumental activities of daily living
As each of these plays an essential role in general quality of life, seeking support is crucial. If you struggle in one or more areas, an occupational therapist can work with you to generate refreshed skills.
What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?
An occupational therapist works with clients to improve fine motor skills. This helps enable people of all ages living with disabilities to live more independently. Treatment first starts with an evaluation of needs and a creation of a need-specific treatment plan. Occupational therapists can significantly improve your quality of life by walking you through various physical activities or mental health coaching.
All occupational therapists are required to be licensed and have a Master’s degree. They work in various settings, including outpatient clinics, schools, and hospitals.
Occupational therapists also work alongside occupational therapy assistants who have an associate’s degree from an accredited program. These therapy assistants can aid development, recovery, and improvement and can also be seen in nursing home facilities. While they can lead treatment, they can’t conduct evaluations.
What is the Difference Between OT and PT?
While both occupational therapists (OT) and physical therapists (PT) work to improve quality of life, their processes and end goals are notably different. Physical therapists work to improve their patient’s ability to move their body, reduce pain, and increase mobility, endurance, and strength. This type of therapy can also prevent injury as it grows your gross motor skills.
An occupational therapist works to improve their patient’s ability to perform daily activities. This typically focuses on upper body or phalanges movements, including:
- Holding cutlery and eating
- Brushing of teeth
- Using a phone
Both forms of therapy are rooted in physical rehabilitation, but occupational therapy also includes mental health care. An OT can conduct behavioral health assessments and work with people to create healthy coping mechanisms such as:
- Listening to music
You can receive mental health treatment outside of a traditional therapy service. This will not only improve your mental state but areas of life such as social skills as well.
What is an Example of Occupational Therapy Work?
In occupational therapy, your specialist will have several physical activities to participate in. This includes running obstacle courses, jumping jacks, playing with play-do, piecing together puzzles, or picking up small items with tweezers. You can also practice these in therapy sessions if you struggle with daily activities such as brushing your teeth or getting dressed.
In addition, occupational therapists can show clients how to use their necessary adaptive equipment. This includes wheelchairs, arm and leg braces, walking tools, and eating aids. While working on fine motor skills, you can also be taught how to master your required equipment.
How Do I See an Occupational Therapist?
Refer to your primary doctor if you or a loved one presents a need for occupational therapy. You can also consult a school nurse and guidance counselor for additional direction.
Finally, visit a local hospital or rehabilitation center for a referral to your services. After examining your options, choose what will work best for your needs.