What is an occupational therapist and what do they do?
A professional who practices, occupational therapy is an occupational therapist. When occupational therapists use the term occupation, they are not talking about a job. Instead, they consider occupation as an activity that people engage in as part of daily life.
An occupational therapist is a qualified professional whose minimum qualification requirement is a master’s degree in occupational therapy. Plus, he/she has to clear the national level exam conducted by NBCOT in the USA.
Entry level practice-
Occupational therapist practices OT worldwide and each country have its own minimum requirement. World Federation of Occupational Therapist and individual countries national association, control the minimum requirement to practice occupational therapy.
An occupational therapist uses meaningful activities to develop skills and promotes independence. An Occupational therapist provides direct and indirect services to the clients. Direct services include evaluation and intervention. While, indirect services include consultation, mediator training, program development, case management, education, and advocacy.
What do occupational therapists do?
First, learn what is occupational therapy? Then it will be helpful to you to understand “what does an occupational therapist do?”
Occupational therapist practices in the various age group from a newborn to the elderly and in different work setup ranging from public hospital to private schools.
Occupational therapist mainly assesses and plan intervention, according to the need of an individual/ client.
OTs focuses on current abilities of a patient, their active participation, and how to make them independent in each area of life.
OTs sees the client as a whole and assess every area of life and then focuses on specific areas of concern.
OTs plan out the intervention goal that must be purposeful, realistic, and goal oriented.
Occupational therapist follows the different OT frames of reference to guide their practice.
OTs work with rehab team, which includes physicians, surgeons, physiotherapist, speech therapist, orthotics, and nurses.
Where do occupational therapists work?
An occupational therapist works on the different setup such as a private/public hospital, mental health center, nursing home rehabilitation center, public/private schools, college & university, home health agencies, developmental center, own private practice, and hospice care.
What do occupational therapists do in different work settings –
# what does an occupational therapist do in Hospital setup-
Occupational Therapist may assign work to deal in the acute care of neurological or orthopedic patient. Here, OTs job is to prevent further deterioration and guide the early ambulation with the help of occupational therapy assistant. In an acute care, OT may recommend splint/orthotics if required; OT may suggest the active exercise in bed, discharge planning, and home care advice and recommendation.
# what does an occupational therapist do in Mental Health –
Occupational therapist’s role in mental health is to increase an individual ability to live as independently as possible in the community. An OT may take group therapy to improve social skills. Plus, OT also provides stress management, bringing insight, positive attitude, and develop coping strategies for clients.
Occupational Therapist helps to improve vocational and leisure life by engaging them in meaningful occupation and leisure activities.
# what does an occupational therapist do in Rehab center –
Rehab center appoints OT to assess and plan the intervention to decrease dependability and promote independence. OT in rehab setup provides exercise, hand function, orthotics/prosthetics prescription, home modification, ADL training and much more.
# what does an occupational therapist do in college/ university –
An occupational therapist in college/ university works as a lecturer or professor, where they teach students of occupational therapy. OTs in university works as a teacher and a researcher. Plus, they have to guide the students in fieldwork and research works. They may have to provide therapy to hospital or rehab center affiliated with the university.
# what does an occupational therapist do in Public/Private schools-
Public/private schools hire occupational therapists for their children’s having impairments. Many parents send their special kids to schools like down’s syndrome, Autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, etc. An occupational therapist provides therapy for these kids in the school. Therapy may include gross motor activities, fine motor activities, sensory activities, handwriting activities.
Read More… Occupational Therapy for Children
# what does an occupational therapist do in Home health agencies-
An occupational therapist also works under the home health care agencies who send OT to the client’s home to recover them from the impairment/disability. Home therapy is good for the patients who is unable to go out and live in his environment only. Generally, seniors seek home therapy in their environment for independence in daily tasks. Home therapy may be preferable in many diseases like stroke, dementia, cerebral palsy etc.
# what does an occupational therapist do in private practice-
Registered occupational therapists also run their own therapy setup. They provide specialized service to the clients. Occupational therapists works in many areas like pediatric, geriatric, orthopedic, Neurorehabilitation. In the private setup, they may prefer their areas of practice depends on their expertise and interest areas.
Multiple roles of the occupational therapist-
The job or duty of an occupational therapist is to assist the patient to achieve his/her maximal abilities in his/her life roles. To meet this goal, it is necessary to assist the individual in sorting out what it is he/she would like to achieve and to provide the individual with the skills and encouragement needed to master the environment and reach to full capacity. To this end, the occupational therapist takes on a variety of roles: teacher, coach, inventor, friend, boss, motivator, critic, and health care professional.
Teaching is an integral part of occupational therapy. We (OT) teach a person something that is entirely new to him. Or sometimes we must teach him how to do something that he could do at one time, but no longer can. Sometimes, it is necessary to teach people how to do something in a new and different way.
A coach is one who trains another by instruction, demonstration, and practice (Webster dictionary). Similarly, an occupational therapist may provide instruction and demonstration to the patient. A repetition of an activity is required to master the skill, for the same, occupational therapist has to do the demonstration of the skill again and again till the patient learn it well.
You heard it right! An inventor! Sometimes the occupational therapist has to invent something that isn’t available in the market. Every patient is different and their problems too. So, according to the need of a patient, therapist guide him to buy some adaptive devices, which help him in daily routine skills or work skills. But when there is nothing available in the shop, the therapist helps him to modify the device.
#4 Friend –
Hmm, friendship with the patient. Right, friendship will make a bond between the two ( therapist and patient). We know, a good rapport building is essential to provide an effective treatment approach. The patient having good bonding with the therapist can share his problems, sorrow, pain. A friend is always a good counselor. So, friendship can lead towards the counseling part.
Like in every business, the boss takes the important decision about the company and helps it to grow. Similarly, an occupational therapist takes the important treatment planning decision and applies it.
An Occupational Therapist also acts as a motivator. Sometimes patients become reluctant and avoid the therapy activities and sometimes they are depressed. So, it’s a duty of OT to motivate them. Counseling is the right way approach and that too during the therapy session. An OT can share their previous experiences and chances of improvements in the patient.
Occupational therapist sometimes plays a role of a critic. A critic is one who analyses and evaluates the patient and provides feedback to him/her. Feedback must be provided in a positive manner. We must help patient to succeed in reaching their therapy goals.
#8 Health Care Professional –
Finally, an occupational therapist is, above all, a health professional. OT has knowledge of the human body, human physiology, kinesiology, sociology, psychology. These are the basis of occupational therapy practice. OT combined the knowledge of the human body with a therapeutic approach to plan out an assessment and intervention.
So, in this article, we have explained to you,”What do occupational therapists do” in general sense. People frequently ask, What’s an occupational therapist? Occupational therapy what do they do? What does an occupational therapist do? Or what do occupational therapist do? These are very common queries asked by many, here we have tried to answer these frequently asked questions.
If you have any suggestion or any other question or you have a better answer, please write down in the comments.
Occupational therapy: Principles and practice.(2000). Alice Punwar, Suzzane Peloquin.3rd Ed. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins publication