April is Occupational Therapy Month. Occupational therapy (OT) is a client-centered health profession that helps people across the lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations). Occupational therapists use a holistic approach that focuses on the individual and work together with their clients to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want, need, or are expected to do. Occupational therapists enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and prevent—or live better with—injury, illness, or disability.
Occupational therapy helps people function in all of their environments (e.g., home, work, school, community) and addresses the physical, psychological, and cognitive aspects of their well-being through engagement in occupation. Occupational therapists may be employed in a number of roles, including but not limited to, practitioner, academic, manager, advocate, consultant, and researcher. OT services typically 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, and
- an outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan.
Additionally, OT services may include comprehensive evaluations of the client’s home and other environments (e.g., workplace, school), recommendations for modifications to these environments or for adaptive equipment and training in its use, and guidance and education for family members and caregivers. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) website offers a wide variety of resources on OT for children and youth, adults, and caregivers as well as professionals. AOTA offers fact sheets on a variety of conditions related to rehabilitation and disability including the role of occupational therapists in reintegration into the community, chronic disease management, and community mobility and driving, among other topics.
Occupational therapists undergo extensive undergraduate, graduate, and/or doctorial accredited educational programs; as well as entry-level mentored practice. After completion of a qualified accredited program an individual may sit for the national certification exam administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. More information on job and career resources including qualifications for becoming an occupational therapist is available on the AOTA website.