What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapists treat people of all ages who have mental, physical or social problems. They aim to improve everyday function and also prevent disability.

Occupational therapy is not just about 'work'.

It 'enables people to achieve health, well-being and life satisfaction through participation in occupation' [COT 2003]

Occupation can be defined as 'those daily activities that reflect culural values, provide structure to living and meaning to individuals; these activities meet human needs for self-care, enjoyment and participation in society' [ Willard & Spackman, 2003].

What does an occupational therapist do?

Occupational therapists treat people of all ages who have mental, physical or social problems. They aim to improve everyday function and also prevent disability. They are specialists in understanding the link between 'occupation' (see above) and health.

Their practice can include:

  • Adapting household products so an individual can use them;
  • Teaching different coping strategies to those who have problems;
  • Helping people participate in social activities.

 

Occupational therapists are problem solvers who empower people to take control of their lives. An occupational therapist's work begins with a thorough patient-centred assessment. Occupational therapists:

  1. Establish the reason why the person is unable to perform daily tasks that we all take for granted.
  2. Plan an appropriate programme of therapy.
  3. Work with the patient to find ways to overcome or cope with the problem(s). Therapy can be long-term or short-term, depending upon the needs of the patient.
  4. Record the progress of the patient, and adapt the course of therapy when necessary.
  5. Discharge the patient from the service when the service is no longer required, and arrange or advise on any 'aids to daily living' that are required.
  6. Refer to other agencies.