That’s a great question. It honestly feels like most people have no clue what Occupational Therapy is, and I get one of two reactions when I tell people that I’m studying to be an occupational therapist:
a. “Oh, cool! That’s like Physical Therapy, right?”
b. “Whoa. So you help people find jobs?”
Let me be the first to tell you, it’s okay if you don’t know what Occupational Therapy is. But it is my hope that by writing this blog post I will help at least one person understand OT!
My Quick Definiton
I’ve been asked countless times what OT is, and I’ve narrowed my standard definition to this:
Occupational therapy is a skilled health care service that works with people of all ages to do the things that they need to be able to do, want to do, and are expected to do in their daily lives. We may be able to help people restore skills that they previously had, or help people compensate or adapt when those skills are no longer available.
So what does that mean?
Basically, we all have daily activities, or occupations, that are meaningful or necessary for us to participate in. Some examples of occupations include (but aren’t limited to): taking a shower, driving to the grocery store, playing with friends, making dinner for your family, knitting a sweater, etc. These occupations are important to us because they make up our daily routine, they’re things that we want to do, things that we need to be able to do. And sometimes, life gets in the way of our successful participation in these occupations, whether it be a chronic illness, a stroke, a spinal cord injury, or many other life-altering experiences.
Occupational therapists work with each person individually to create person-centered goals and develop treatments that will help the person get back to those meaningful occupations. Sometimes, OT’s can help a person restore previous skills, working on strength and endurance to help a person go back to doing their occupations the way that they used to. Other times, OT’s will work with people to compensate for whatever is preventing them from participating in their occupations by providing adaptive equipment or by teaching the person a new way to do the activity.
I know that’s a lot, but I’m hoping that some of it made sense! I hope that this post helped clear up some of the confusion about what OT is, and I hope to continue to post about Occupational Therapy through the month. I welcome any questions or comments that you might have! Want to know something about Occupational Therapy, or about grad school? Let me know!