What is an Occupational Therapist?

If you have been considering a career in physical therapy or rehabilitative care, you may have wondered, what is occupational therapy? Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants work with people to improve their ability or restore their ability to perform everyday activities and tasks. Some occupational therapists specialize in work-related tasks, while others offer more generalized services to increase range of motion, reduce the risk of injury, and increase mobility in certain patients.

What is an occupational therapist? What do occupational therapists do on a daily basis? These are common questions asked by those who are interested in an occupational therapy career and you'll find some answers below.

What Comprises Occupational Therapy?

In a nutshell, occupational therapy services involve restoring mobility and functioning of joints and muscles after a severe injury or accident. Many people recovering from a serious injury have difficulty restoring full functioning of their muscles and joints, and may be at a higher risk for a repeat injury. The occupational therapist is responsible for evaluating the patient's condition, creating a customized intervention program that will improve the person's ability to perform various activities and tasks, and to evaluate the outcome of the treatment plan to find out what else needs to be corrected.

But what is occupational therapy? What exactly is the occupational therapist responsible for?

This is how the American Occupational Therapy Association executive board answers the question:

"The therapeutic use of work, self-care, and play activities to increase development and prevent disability. It may include adaptation of task or environment to achieve maximum independence and to enhance the quality of life."

The field of occupational therapy does encompass several specializations and branches, so the actual role of the occupational therapist may depend on the types of clients and patients the therapist is working with. Occupational therapists may work only with children and seniors, while others may prefer to work with disabled patients and those who are undergoing a rehabilitation program.

What is the Role of an Occupational Therapist?

Occupational therapists may be hired by hospitals, clinics and private institutions to provide a wide range of services for those who are recovering from an injury or undergoing a rehabilitation program. The word "occupation" in occupational therapy refers to the daily activities and tasks that an individual performs. These include work-related tasks, such as standing, picking up heavy boxes, driving in a car, etc. but also simple activities such as sitting at a computer, sorting files, moving to a room or getting up from a chair.

What is an occupational therapist? What are their primary roles? Occupational therapists are responsible for developing an effective treatment program that will help individuals recover from injury and also restore mobility and movement without pain. They must be aware of the extent of injuries that the individual has suffered, and will guide the patient through various types of exercises and routines to restore mobility. The treatment plan can be several weeks or several months long, depending on the patient's condition and goals. However, the occupational therapist's primary responsibility is to make sure that the patient can undertake daily activities without pain and without causing additional injuries to the body.