What is Occupational Therapy?

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Our lives are made up of meaningful, everyday activities—occupations. This includes the things that we need, want, and have to do. We don’t always notice how important these occupations are until they are interrupted, or we have difficulty with them. Occupational therapy is a skilled healthcare profession which focuses on these meaningful activities, using them therapeutically to prevent, improve, or adapt to these disruptions.

What does an occupational therapist do?

Through a holistic lens, occupational therapists focus on factors that might impact an individual’s performance or participation: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Using a client-centered and collaborative approach, occupational therapists evaluate these factors and provide occupation-based interventions which focus on improved health, wellness, and quality of life. For example, an occupational therapist can instruct a fall prevention group among older adults to ensure they can continue to live at home or provide interventions to a group for children with difficulties feeding and eating. Occupational therapists can work as consultants to evaluate workplaces for accessibility in compliance with federal laws or work with a community organization, such as a museum, to provide sensory adaptions for sensory-friendly experiences of visitors.

Occupational therapists use a combination of science and art to find creative solutions that support the overall goal of helping people live life to the fullest!

Where do occupational therapists practice?

The practice of occupational therapists is varied, unique, and versatile, treating across the lifespan and in a range of settings. You’ll find occupational therapists in hospitals, schools, nursing facilities, outpatient clinics, home health, academia, early intervention, community, and mental health settings. The American Occupational Therapy Association offers advanced board certifications in gerontology, mental health, pediatrics, and physical rehabilitation. They also offer specialty certifications in driving and community mobility; environmental modification; feeding, eating, and swallowing; low vision; and school systems.

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