Wellness & Education

Understanding Occupational Therapy

When many people think about rehabilitation therapy, they imagine physical therapists helping people recover from car accidents or surgeries. This isn’t all physical therapists do, of course, and they are not the only type of rehab therapists. Occupational therapy is another, equally vital, branch of rehab therapy.

While physical therapists focus on helping patients move and function better, occupational therapists help patients learn to perform specific tasks that require fine and gross motor movements. Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy: Key Differences | Regis College

According to “All Things OT”, “There are eight main areas of occupation including activities of daily living (ADLs), instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), rest and sleep, education, work, play, leisure, and social participation.” Framework – All Things OT

Many occupational therapists help patients learn or relearn how to perform the tasks of daily living: bathing, getting dressed, cooking, cleaning, using money, etc. They treat patients of all ages, from the baby who needs help learning to swallow to the elderly patient who has to relearn how to talk. Individually, some occupational therapists are “jacks of all trades” and some specialize in very specific types of therapy, such as in-home healthcare, teaching patients to use artificial limbs, environment modification, equine therapy (which uses horses), etc.

Patients in need of help with cognitive, sensory and social skills also seek help from occupational therapists. It’s not uncommon for occupational therapists to treat patients in cooperation with behavioral and mental health experts.

Occupational therapy always begins with an initial evaluation to identify the specific needs of the individual patient. Once these needs have been identified, the therapist creates a treatment plan that is specific to the patient. The goal of each appointment it to help the patient make progress in their ability to function in daily life.

Occupational therapy patients usually spend a half hour to an hour with their therapist.  The number of times a patient receives therapy each week and the number of weeks of treatment depend on several factors. These include:

  • The condition of the patient.
  • The reason for therapy.
  • Where therapy is being received.
  • Insurance coverage.
  • How well the patient does his or her therapy “homework” between visits to the occupational therapist.

Depending on the situation, occupational therapists may recommend the use of adaptive devices. These are tools that help make simple tasks easier. There are many different types of adaptive devices, from artificial limbs and wheelchair vans to “Key wings” that help make a key easier to hold and turn. 10 Arthritis-friendly Gadgets | Rush Memorial Hospital