What is Occupational Therapy?

Throughout the month of April, Dobson Healthcare along with the the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA) and “…more than 213,000 occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, and students who work nationwide to create fuller lives for clients and their families…” celebrate Occupational Therapy Month (AOTA, 2016).

What is Occupational Therapy?

Often confused with being associated strictly to the workforce- or a person’s occupation- Occupational Therapy (OT) is actually a more inclusive therapy than most realize. OT involves the development, recovery, or maintaining of daily living. Daily living for a individual can include self-care, homemaking, leisure, education, and work. According to AOTA¹, OT services generally include:

  • An individualized evaluation, during which the client/family and Occupational Therapist determine the person’s goals
  • Customized intervention to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals
  • Outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan

The Bureau of Labor Statistics² states additional duties of an Occupational Therapist as well as Occupation Therapy Assistants and Aides:

  • Help people with various disabilities with different tasks, such as teaching a stroke victim how to get dressed
  • Demonstrate exercises and other therapeutic activities—for example, stretching the joints for arthritis relief—that can help relieve pain in people with chronic conditions
  • Recommend special equipment, such as wheelchairs and eating aids, and instruct patients on how to use that equipment
  • Lead children who have developmental disabilities in play activities that promote coordination and socialization
  • Encourage patients to complete activities and tasks
  • Transport patients
  • Promote safety education and support

Goals: The Key to OT

The main goal of OT is all about “…restoring function and promoting independence through the use of occupation-based treatment…” (Hartwig, 2016). To accomplish these goals, Occupational Therapists assist individuals by adapting the environment or task as well as teach the individual the skills needed to perform such actions. Goals are created using the term SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, and Time-sensitive).  Example goals³ used in a OT program can include:

  1. The patient will push self up into quadruped position with minimal physical assistance and maintain position for 2 minutes for 2/2 trials.
  2. The patient will pull-over shirt with minimal assistance while seated with mod trunk support for 3/5 attempts, to increase level of independence with dressing.
  3. The patient will demonstrate functional shoulder/arm hand control for improved fine motor abilities..
  4. When given an assignment that involves the use of scissors, the patient will appropriately use scissors to cut 100% of the time on 4 out of 5 trials.
  5. The patient will consistently respond to cue to recall presence of food tray and initiate self‐feeding 80% of trials.

Who Uses OT?

Occupational Therapy can assist individuals of all ages. OT can also be utilized for short term assistance as well as throughout the entire lifespan of an individual. It is a collaborative process between the individual needing OT, the family, the therapist, and other professionals involved including (but not limited to) teachers, doctors, and businesses. The following list provides insight to who typically uses OT services. Please note: there can be other individuals than those listed who use OT.

  • Patients with permanent disabilities (such as those due to having Cerebral Palsy, Autism, or the loss of limb)
  • Individuals recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury and/or Spinal Cord Injury
  • Infants and toddlers who have, or are at risk of having, developmental delays
  • Individuals with a mental illness
  • Individuals who are emotionally unbalanced
  • Older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes (such as the on-set of Alzheimer’s Disease)
  • Patients with chronic conditions (such as Diabetes and Arthritis)
  • Individuals recovering from surgery (such as hip replacement)

Want to Learn More?

To learn more about Occupational Therapy visit The American Occupational Therapy Association’s website at www.aota.org

To learn about coordinating your Occupational Therapy visit Dobson Healthcare’s Care and Services page at www.dobsonhealthcare.com/superior-service/staffing-services/


¹ AOTA. (n.d.). About Occupational Therapy. Retrieved April 12, 2016, from www.aota.org

² Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015, December 17). What Occupational Therapists Do. Retrieved April 12, 206 from www.bls.gov

² Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015, December 17). What Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides Do. Retrieved April 12, 2016 from www.bls.gov

³ Malone M. L. (2012, March 9). Interventions for Treating Persons with Dementia. Retrieved April 12, 206 from www.ohioslha.org

³ eQHealth (2012 January). Writing Measurable Short and Long Term Goals. Retrieved April 12, 206 from fl.eqhs.org

AOTA. (2016 April) April is Occupational Therapy Month. Retrieved April 12, 2016 from www.aota.org

Hartwig, M., Seaman, C., Williams, S., & Witherspoon, S. (2016, March 24). Occupational Therapy: Changing lives for the better everyday. Retrieved April 08, 2016, from www.ourmidland.com

Ithaca College Department of Occupational Therapy. (n.d.). What is Occupational Therapy?. Retrieved April, 12, 2016 from www.ithaca.edu