Facts About Occupational Therapy

Reviewed Jul 18, 2017

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Summary

Occupational therapists can help people develop, regain, or maintain skills they need for work, school, leisure, self-care, or social activities.

Despite what the name implies, occupational therapy encompasses many more facets of care than just job-related rehabilitation. Aimed at helping people with limitations in any aspect of daily life, occupational therapy involves skilled treatment that focuses on overcoming those problems.

What is occupational therapy?

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Representative Assembly defines occupational therapy as “use of purposeful activity to maximize independence, prevent disability, and maintain health.” “Purposeful activity” can encompass any activity from help with personal hygiene or eating to modification of the work environment, according to Brynda Pappas, a spokesperson for the AOTA. “(Occupational therapy) is a health profession that helps people who have limitations in their ability to perform everyday occupations or activities of everyday living,” Pappas explains. “It can be (a) permanent or temporary (limitation) . . . such as a child with cerebral palsy, someone with paralysis from a spinal cord injury or someone with a broken leg or arm.”

Who benefits

People of all ages who have a disability can benefit from occupational therapy. “Absolutely anyone from the tiniest of newborns to the oldest people who have a problem pursuing the activities they need to pursue,” Pappas says. “It runs the age gamut.”

And according to the AOTA and other experts, occupational therapists can help a variety of people with a wide range of physical, cognitive, and emotional problems, including:

  • Birth defects or injuries
  • Developmental or learning disabilities
  • Limitations resulting from health conditions such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, stroke, or heart attack
  • Work-related injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or lower-back problems
  • Living with broken bones, spinal cord injuries, burns, amputations, or other injuries
  • Mental health or behavioral problems such as Alzheimer’s disease or posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Cognitive disabilities or vision limitations

Kinds of services

Depending on the problem or limitation, occupational therapists can help people develop, regain, or maintain skills they need for work, school, leisure, self-care, or social activities. Services or interventions designed to help people achieve maximum independence may include:

  • Adapting work or home environments to enhance functioning
  • Training in use of assistive or prosthetic devices to help replace lost functions or improve functioning
  • Teaching daily living skills
  • Using activities to help develop learning capacity, motor skills, sensory functioning, social skills, or cognitive skills such as verbal communication
  • Designing crafts or exercises to improve physical functioning

What to expect

Physicians often refer patients to occupational therapists for evaluations. For example, a doctor might refer someone with carpal tunnel syndrome to an occupational therapist, who then can determine whether therapeutic interventions could eliminate the need for surgery or improve recovery from surgery.

After receiving a referral, an occupational therapist completes an evaluation to investigate that person’s problem areas and reasons for deficiencies. If necessary, evaluations may involve home or worksite visits. The evaluation process allows the therapist to develop an individualized treatment plan, which could involve exercises and adaptive devices or special equipment such as splints. Occupational therapists also may help family members learn effective methods of caring for loved ones with limitations. After implementing the treatment plan, re-evaluations help the therapist make appropriate changes in treatment.

How to find an occupational therapist

All occupational therapists are state licensed and must pass a national certification exam. To find a therapist in your area, check the AOTA’s online specialist directory (at www.aota.org) or your state’s occupational therapy association. Word of mouth often can help people find the best therapist for their needs. “Ask your physician and people who have had similar experiences,” Pappas recommends, such as other parents or home health agencies. 

Resources

The American Occupational Therapy Association
www.aota.org/

Wisconsin Occupational Therapy Association
www.wota.net/

By Kristen Knight

Summary

Occupational therapists can help people develop, regain, or maintain skills they need for work, school, leisure, self-care, or social activities.

Despite what the name implies, occupational therapy encompasses many more facets of care than just job-related rehabilitation. Aimed at helping people with limitations in any aspect of daily life, occupational therapy involves skilled treatment that focuses on overcoming those problems.

What is occupational therapy?

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Representative Assembly defines occupational therapy as “use of purposeful activity to maximize independence, prevent disability, and maintain health.” “Purposeful activity” can encompass any activity from help with personal hygiene or eating to modification of the work environment, according to Brynda Pappas, a spokesperson for the AOTA. “(Occupational therapy) is a health profession that helps people who have limitations in their ability to perform everyday occupations or activities of everyday living,” Pappas explains. “It can be (a) permanent or temporary (limitation) . . . such as a child with cerebral palsy, someone with paralysis from a spinal cord injury or someone with a broken leg or arm.”

Who benefits

People of all ages who have a disability can benefit from occupational therapy. “Absolutely anyone from the tiniest of newborns to the oldest people who have a problem pursuing the activities they need to pursue,” Pappas says. “It runs the age gamut.”

And according to the AOTA and other experts, occupational therapists can help a variety of people with a wide range of physical, cognitive, and emotional problems, including:

  • Birth defects or injuries
  • Developmental or learning disabilities
  • Limitations resulting from health conditions such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, stroke, or heart attack
  • Work-related injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or lower-back problems
  • Living with broken bones, spinal cord injuries, burns, amputations, or other injuries
  • Mental health or behavioral problems such as Alzheimer’s disease or posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Cognitive disabilities or vision limitations

Kinds of services

Depending on the problem or limitation, occupational therapists can help people develop, regain, or maintain skills they need for work, school, leisure, self-care, or social activities. Services or interventions designed to help people achieve maximum independence may include:

  • Adapting work or home environments to enhance functioning
  • Training in use of assistive or prosthetic devices to help replace lost functions or improve functioning
  • Teaching daily living skills
  • Using activities to help develop learning capacity, motor skills, sensory functioning, social skills, or cognitive skills such as verbal communication
  • Designing crafts or exercises to improve physical functioning

What to expect

Physicians often refer patients to occupational therapists for evaluations. For example, a doctor might refer someone with carpal tunnel syndrome to an occupational therapist, who then can determine whether therapeutic interventions could eliminate the need for surgery or improve recovery from surgery.

After receiving a referral, an occupational therapist completes an evaluation to investigate that person’s problem areas and reasons for deficiencies. If necessary, evaluations may involve home or worksite visits. The evaluation process allows the therapist to develop an individualized treatment plan, which could involve exercises and adaptive devices or special equipment such as splints. Occupational therapists also may help family members learn effective methods of caring for loved ones with limitations. After implementing the treatment plan, re-evaluations help the therapist make appropriate changes in treatment.

How to find an occupational therapist

All occupational therapists are state licensed and must pass a national certification exam. To find a therapist in your area, check the AOTA’s online specialist directory (at www.aota.org) or your state’s occupational therapy association. Word of mouth often can help people find the best therapist for their needs. “Ask your physician and people who have had similar experiences,” Pappas recommends, such as other parents or home health agencies. 

Resources

The American Occupational Therapy Association
www.aota.org/

Wisconsin Occupational Therapy Association
www.wota.net/

By Kristen Knight

Summary

Occupational therapists can help people develop, regain, or maintain skills they need for work, school, leisure, self-care, or social activities.

Despite what the name implies, occupational therapy encompasses many more facets of care than just job-related rehabilitation. Aimed at helping people with limitations in any aspect of daily life, occupational therapy involves skilled treatment that focuses on overcoming those problems.

What is occupational therapy?

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Representative Assembly defines occupational therapy as “use of purposeful activity to maximize independence, prevent disability, and maintain health.” “Purposeful activity” can encompass any activity from help with personal hygiene or eating to modification of the work environment, according to Brynda Pappas, a spokesperson for the AOTA. “(Occupational therapy) is a health profession that helps people who have limitations in their ability to perform everyday occupations or activities of everyday living,” Pappas explains. “It can be (a) permanent or temporary (limitation) . . . such as a child with cerebral palsy, someone with paralysis from a spinal cord injury or someone with a broken leg or arm.”

Who benefits

People of all ages who have a disability can benefit from occupational therapy. “Absolutely anyone from the tiniest of newborns to the oldest people who have a problem pursuing the activities they need to pursue,” Pappas says. “It runs the age gamut.”

And according to the AOTA and other experts, occupational therapists can help a variety of people with a wide range of physical, cognitive, and emotional problems, including:

  • Birth defects or injuries
  • Developmental or learning disabilities
  • Limitations resulting from health conditions such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, stroke, or heart attack
  • Work-related injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or lower-back problems
  • Living with broken bones, spinal cord injuries, burns, amputations, or other injuries
  • Mental health or behavioral problems such as Alzheimer’s disease or posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Cognitive disabilities or vision limitations

Kinds of services

Depending on the problem or limitation, occupational therapists can help people develop, regain, or maintain skills they need for work, school, leisure, self-care, or social activities. Services or interventions designed to help people achieve maximum independence may include:

  • Adapting work or home environments to enhance functioning
  • Training in use of assistive or prosthetic devices to help replace lost functions or improve functioning
  • Teaching daily living skills
  • Using activities to help develop learning capacity, motor skills, sensory functioning, social skills, or cognitive skills such as verbal communication
  • Designing crafts or exercises to improve physical functioning

What to expect

Physicians often refer patients to occupational therapists for evaluations. For example, a doctor might refer someone with carpal tunnel syndrome to an occupational therapist, who then can determine whether therapeutic interventions could eliminate the need for surgery or improve recovery from surgery.

After receiving a referral, an occupational therapist completes an evaluation to investigate that person’s problem areas and reasons for deficiencies. If necessary, evaluations may involve home or worksite visits. The evaluation process allows the therapist to develop an individualized treatment plan, which could involve exercises and adaptive devices or special equipment such as splints. Occupational therapists also may help family members learn effective methods of caring for loved ones with limitations. After implementing the treatment plan, re-evaluations help the therapist make appropriate changes in treatment.

How to find an occupational therapist

All occupational therapists are state licensed and must pass a national certification exam. To find a therapist in your area, check the AOTA’s online specialist directory (at www.aota.org) or your state’s occupational therapy association. Word of mouth often can help people find the best therapist for their needs. “Ask your physician and people who have had similar experiences,” Pappas recommends, such as other parents or home health agencies. 

Resources

The American Occupational Therapy Association
www.aota.org/

Wisconsin Occupational Therapy Association
www.wota.net/

By Kristen Knight

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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