Occupational Therapy

Overview

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, such as dressing and eating.
    • Home skills, such as housekeeping, gardening, or cooking.
    • Personal management skills, such as balancing a checkbook or 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, as well as in determining whether special adaptations such as hand brakes are necessary.
  • 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, with recommendations for changes in those environments that will help you continue your activities.
  • Assessment and training in the use of assistive devices, such as special key-holders for people with 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 include:

  • 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 abuse, and eating disorders.

Other Places To Get Help

Organization

American Occupational Therapy Association
4720 Montgomery Lane, P.O. Box 31220
Bethesda, MD  20824-1220
Phone: (301) 652-2682
Fax: (301) 652-7711
TDD: 1-800-377-8555
Web Address: http://www.aota.org
 

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is the nationally recognized professional association of approximately 35,000 occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, and students of occupational therapy. AOTA's mission is to advance the quality, availability, use, and support of occupational therapy through standard-setting, advocacy, education, and research on behalf of its members and the public.


References

Other Works Consulted

  • U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (2008-2009). Occupational therapists. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Available online: http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos078.htm.

Credits

Author Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH
Editor Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Mary "Ginny" Virginia Keely, PT, MS, OCS, FAAOMPT - Physical Therapy
Last Updated March 6, 2009

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