What Is An Occupational Therapist?
An occupational therapist (OT) is a professional who helps people with physical, mental, or social disabilities regain the ability to live independently.
Beginning July 1, 2027, all entry-level occupational therapists will be required to earn a doctorate degree (versus the current bachelors degree) to practice.
Occupational therapists work with patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly.
They treat a variety of conditions, including developmental disorders, head trauma, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, cerebral palsy, stroke, and more.
The goal of occupational therapy is to help people regain the ability to perform everyday activities. This may include activities such as dressing, bathing, eating, cooking, and using the bathroom.
Occupational therapists also help patients with physical disabilities learn how to use adaptive equipment. This equipment includes adaptive utensils, wheelchairs, and shower chairs.
In addition to helping patients regain their independence, occupational therapists also help to teach patients and their families on how to prevent injuries.
They do this by teaching patients how to perform tasks in a way that minimizes the risk of injury.
For example, an occupational therapist may teach a patient with arthritis how to use a keyboard with ergonomic devices to minimize the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Another example would be to educate the patient on how to modify the home to make it safer to live in.
What Do Occupational Therapists Do?
Occupational therapists assist people in developing the skills needed to perform everyday activities. They work with individuals who have physical, mental, developmental, or emotional disabilities. They also help people recovering from injuries, such as a broken bone or stroke.
An occupational therapist typically:
- Meets with the client to discuss their goals and needs.
- Observes the client performing everyday activities.
- Evaluates the client’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Develops a treatment plan to help the client improve their skills.
- Provides therapy to help the client reach their goals.
- Teaches the client how to use adaptive equipment, if needed.
- Collaborates with other members of the health care team, such as physicians, speech therapists and physical therapists.
OTs work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, schools, and private practices. They may also provide home visits to clients who are unable to leave their homes.
OTs typically work with clients who have conditions that affect their ability to perform everyday activities, such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, cerebral palsy, and autism. They also work with clients who have been injured and need help recovering their skills.
An OT helps their clients improve their ability to perform daily activities. This may involve helping them regain skills that were lost due to an injury or illness, or teaching them new ways to do things.
For example, they may help a client who has difficulty dressing himself learn how to dress using a different method.
They also work with clients who need assistance in adapting to their environment. For example, they may help a client who is blind learn how to use Braille or assist a client who uses a wheelchair in learning how to navigate his home.
In addition to working with individual clients, they also work with groups of people. They may provide education to parents of children with special needs or run support groups for adults who have chronic illnesses.
They may use therapeutic exercises, massage, and other hands-on approaches. They may also use devices such as splints or braces.
How Do I Know If I Need To See An Occupational Therapist?
Oftentimes, it’s the physician who recommends and writes a prescription for Occupational Therapy. However, there are certain telltale signs that may suggest you or a loved one could benefit from OT.
- You find every day tasks, such as cooking dinner or going to the grocery store, more difficult than they used to be.
- You have difficulty completing the tasks of daily living, such as bathing, dressing and grooming.
- You’re recovering from an injury or surgery and need help regaining your strength and range of motion.
- You have a chronic condition, such as arthritis, diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease, which makes it difficult to do the things you love.
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, occupational therapy may be a good option for you.
But how do you know if occupational therapy is right for you? And how do you choose an occupational therapist? Here are some things to consider:
- First, ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist.
- Then, check with your insurance company to see if occupational therapy is covered under your plan.
- Next, look for an occupational therapist who has experience treating patients with conditions similar to yours.
- Finally, make sure you feel comfortable with the occupational therapist and that he or she has a good bedside manner.
Once you’ve found an occupational therapist, he or she will assess your condition and develop a treatment plan specifically for you.
Treatment may involve exercises to improve your strength, dexterity, and range of motion. It may also involve activities to help you regain daily living skills or strategies to help you cope with pain.
If you have any questions about choosing an occupational therapist, be sure to ask your doctor. And don’t hesitate to interview several therapists before making a decision. The most important thing is finding someone who you feel comfortable with and who can help you meet your goals.
What Should I Expect When I See An Occupational Therapist?
Most people see an occupational therapist (OT) for help with recovering from an injury, illness, or disability that makes it hard to do everyday activities. OTs also work with people who have developmental disabilities, such as autism.
During your first visit, the OT will ask you questions about your goals and how your condition is affecting your life. The OT will also do a physical assessment to see how well you are able to move and perform everyday activities. Based on this information, the OT will develop a treatment plan with you.
Treatment may include exercises to improve your strength, flexibility, and coordination. The OT may also give you advice on how to use everyday items in new ways to make them easier to use.
For example, the OT may show you how to use a reacher tool to pick up things from the floor.
The OT will also work with you on activities that are important to you. For instance, if you want to be able to write again, the OT will help you practice holding a pen or pencil and guide you through stroke exercises.
You can expect to see an improvement in your ability to perform everyday activities with occupational therapy. However, the amount of improvement depends on many factors, such as the severity of your condition and how well you stick to your treatment plan.
If you have any questions or concerns about what to expect when you see an occupational therapist, be sure to ask. The occupational therapist will be happy to answer any of your questions.