What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is a client-centred health profession concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to assist people to overcome various limitations in order to live more independent lives. People may need assistance due to injury or illness, mental health problems, developmental delay or the effects of ageing.

What do occupational therapists do?

Working with children:

Helping children achieve their developmental milestones such as fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Working with children, their families and teachers, occupational therapists aim to improve the child’s quality of life by helping them to participate in play, preschool, school and home activities.

Rehabilitation and aged care:

Helping clients regain or enhance their daily lives after specific events such as hip replacement or stroke. Assessing and modifying clients’ home and community environments to improve their safety and independence. Educating clients and caregivers in the use of adaptive equipment to assist function.

Acute care:

Specialist interventions in various health conditions including surgery, burns, HIV and acute mental health. Assessing clients’ cognition, function and psychosocial needs. Monitoring clients’ function and progress, prescribing adaptive equipment to ensure safety upon discharge from hospitals.

OT in the workplace

Occupational therapists play an important role in helping workers return to work following an injury or illness, including stress. Their role in the workplace covers:

Injury management and rehabilitation including worksite assessments, injury risk assessments, occupational rehabilitation counselling and early intervention rehabilitation

Injury prevention including manual-handling assessments, claims history reviews, ergonomic assessments, development of alternate duties, work-conditioning programs and the redesign of workplaces

Training – in areas like stress management, manual handling, back care, safe work practices, the introduction of new equipment, work-station adjustments and developing pause exercises, where you take a break for exercise at work.

Mental health:

Designing individual and group programs and activities to enhance clients’ independence in everyday activities. Developing coping strategies for clients in overcoming their mental health issues. Improving clients’ confidence and self-esteem in social situations.

Stages of treatment

An OT treatment program typically involves three stages:

Evaluation the abilities of the person are assessed in the context of their work, school, home, leisure, general lifestyle and family situation.

Consultation having made an assessment, the occupational therapist then consults with the person, other professionals and family members who may be closely involved, to develop a treatment program.

Treatment this may take place in a clinic, hospital ward, residential care centre or at the person’s home, school or workplace. The goal is always to improve skills for living.

Where do occupational therapists work?

Occupational therapists often work as part of an integrated healthcare team. They work with clients in both public and private sectors. You will find occupational therapists working in a wide range of practice settings, including:

· public and private hospitals

· medical rehabilitation units

· community health centres

· home care services

· aged care facilities

· psychiatric clinics, hostels and hospitals

· vocational rehabilitation centres

· schools and education facilities

· independent living and respite centres, and

· private practice.