What is Occupational Therapy (OT)?

What Do OTs Do?

Occupational Therapists (OTs) and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTAs) help individuals who have experienced illnesses, injuries or other disabling conditions learn how to:

  • Dress and bathe independently
  • Adapt their homes to be wheelchair accessible
  • Manage stress
  • Use their injured hands to work on a computer
  • Plan a meal
  • Balance a checkbook
  • Use public transportation

Occupational therapy professionals use exercises, patient education and advanced rehabilitation techniques to assist patients with these activities. Some advanced techniques include:

  • Ergonomic assessment
  • Home modifications to prevent falls
  • Wheelchair training
  • Fabrication of hand splints
  • Wellness programs to prevent injuries

Occupational therapy professionals work with patients with illnesses such as:

  • Head injuries
  • Strokes
  • Arthritis
  • Hand injuries
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Mental health disorders

An occupational therapist may help a girl with cerebral palsy learn to use her hands to hold a crayon. In another setting, an OT may help a woman with arthritic hands adapt her kitchen so that she is able to cook for her family. An OT can also teach a worker how to avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Occupational therapists work in a variety of treatment settings such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, home health agencies and nursing homes. They work with other health care providers such as physical therapists, speech language pathologists, physicians, case workers and nurses.

Occupational therapists are an important part of the health care team since they help patients regain their abilities to do daily activities after life-changing injuries or illnesses.

Occupational therapists reduce health care costs by helping patients become more independent so they are not as likely to be confined to a hospital or health care facility.