Occupational therapy is treatment to help people live as independently as possible. Occupational therapists work with people of all ages who, because of illness, injury, developmental delays, or psychological problems, need assistance in learning skills to help them lead independent, productive, and satisfying lives. Occupational therapists use work, self-care, and recreational activities to increase independent function.
Occupational therapy can include:
- Assistance and training in performing daily activities. Depending on your needs, these could be:
- Personal care activities. Two examples are dressing and eating.
- Home skills. Some examples are housekeeping, gardening, and cooking.
- Personal management skills. Two examples are balancing a checkbook and keeping a schedule.
- Skills important in driving a car or other motor vehicle. Occupational therapy may be involved in the vision, thinking, and judgment skills needed for driving. It also may involve finding out whether special adaptations such as hand brakes are needed.
- Physical exercises, to increase good posture and joint motion as well as overall strength and flexibility.
- Instruction in protecting your joints and conserving your energy.
- Evaluation of your daily living needs and assessment of your home and work environments. Your occupational therapist may recommend changes in those environments that may help you continue your activities.
- Assessment and training in the use of assistive devices. Examples are special key-holders for people who have stiff hands, computer-aided adaptive equipment, and wheelchairs.
- Fitting splints or braces.
- Guidance for family members and caregivers.
Examples of the many different conditions and situations in which occupational therapy can help are:
- Mental and physical impairments a person has had since birth.
- Recovery and return to work after a work-related injury.
- Sudden serious health conditions such as a stroke, heart attack, brain injury, or amputation.
- Chronic (ongoing) conditions, such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Learning disabilities or developmental disabilities.
- Mental health or behavioral issues such as Alzheimer's disease, post-traumatic stress, substance use disorder, and eating disorders.
Other Works Consulted
- U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012–2013). Occupational therapists. In Occupational Outlook Handbook. Available online: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm.
Current as of: March 2, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Joan Rigg PT, OCS - Physical Therapy