Understanding Occupational Therapy and Its Benefits

The word “occupation” means more than a person’s job or career – it refers to all activities that individuals occupy for leisure and work, both meaningful and mundane.

Occupational science is the study of human participation and looks at the ways in which participation can be measured in order to develop effective methods of intervention. It also examines how the impact of participation can affect an individual’s health and well-being.

Therefore, occupational therapy is a client-centered health profession that focuses on promoting the health and well-being of individuals who struggle to participate in the activities of everyday life.

Keep reading to find out what occupational therapy is and how it can benefit individuals of all ages and walks of life:

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is a form of health care that addresses issues with a person’s ability to function day-to-day, such as dressing themselves, going to work, and participating in social activities.

It’s the only profession that helps people of all ages to do the things they need to do by promoting health and preventing injury, illness, or disability.

Common interventions include helping children participate in school, aiding those in recovery from injury, and providing support to the elderly experiencing physical and cognitive changes.

Examples of Occupational Therapy Techniques

Occupational therapy techniques involve using meaningful and purposeful activities relevant to the patient to help them become more functional.

For example, an individual recovering from a stroke may seek occupational therapy to regain independence. This may involve using household tasks such as hanging up laundry to help rebuild upper body strength.

An occupational therapist may use something as simple as playdough to help a child strengthen weak hand muscles.

There are also many tools an occupational therapist can use to aid their patients including assistive technology such as grab bars for balancing and standing, kinesthetic chairs for posture, and weighted products (vests, blankets, etc.) to address anxiety and sleep issues.

Occupational Therapy for Adults

Adults of all ages and abilities can seek occupational therapy to address neurological and physical conditions such as:

  • Obesity
  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Concussion
  • Injury Rehabilitation
  • Aging

Occupational therapy can help adults with their mobility and seating, motor skills, cognitive abilities, home management, community living skills, and workplace skills.

Occupational Therapy for Kids

Occupational therapists also work with children to help them gain independence in their daily skills such as playing, printing, and socializing. They can help children acquire specific skills such as tying their shoes, using a fork, and kicking a ball.

This type of therapy can be done with babies, young children, and school-aged kids in a variety of settings such as the home or school. Occupational therapists work in collaboration with family, teachers, and other health professionals.

Occupational therapy can be particularly useful in helping and supporting kids with Autism, ADHD, birth injuries/defects, sensory processing disorder, and traumatic injuries to the brain and spinal cord.

What Do Occupational Therapists Do?

Occupational therapists, or OTs, work with people of all ages with a variety of tools and techniques in a variety of settings.

They may work in a classroom to help a child use a computer, in a hospital with patients who have just suffered a stroke, or working in outpatient programs with clients suffering mental illnesses.

OTs also assess clients in order to identify and purchase appropriate equipment, such as wheelchairs, to ensure clients can safely remain home – whether they have a condition such as multiple sclerosis or if they have suffered injury from a motor vehicle accident.

While OTs often work alongside physiotherapists, their roles are very different. While physiotherapists help patients restore physical function, occupational therapists focus on how that function affects their ability to live their day-to-day lives.

To become a registered occupational therapist, OTs require a Bachelor of Science degree or a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy as well as a minimum of 1,000 hours of supervised fieldwork (either through on-the-job training or a clinical practicum).

Following the completion of their education, occupational therapists must pass a certification exam and become a member of a council that is responsible for the regulation of occupational therapy.

What are the Benefits of Occupational Therapy?

Once upon a time, occupational therapy was predominantly used for people who suffered an injury and sought to return to work.

However, it has evolved into a beneficial treatment for those who wish to regain the ability to do everyday tasks, no matter the cause of their challenges.

Here are some of the benefits occupational therapy can offer:

1. Improves Physical Health

Occupational therapy can help patients increase their strength and endurance while improving their range of motion with the goal being to build upon their current abilities to alleviate the struggle of day-to-day tasks.

2. Decreases Pain

Sometimes the pain we feel in our bodies is not a direct result of an injury or condition. For example, when one muscle is weak, the opposite muscle tightens and causes pain.

Occupational therapy can help patients develop proper body positioning to improve movement and decrease pain.

3. Improves Independence

The primary focus of occupational therapy is to improve the individual’s self-care skills so they can complete personal tasks with as little assistance as possible.

Likewise, occupational therapy can be used to help patients gain meaningful employment by addressing movement restrictions as well as providing instruction on how to perform and modify work tasks.

4. Addresses Cognitive Function Deficits

Occupational therapy involves more than improving a person’s physical state. It can also address functional cognition by helping patients practice skills that require organization, attention, problem-solving, and reasoning.

5. Improves Sleep

Occupational therapy can help with sleep issues by addressing secondary conditions that may be affecting sleep quality as well as establishing sleep hygiene routines, managing fatigue and pain, and helping the patient modify their environment to promote sleep.

Occupational Therapy: Treatment and Prevention

Occupational therapy is not simply a form of healthcare used to treat and manage conditions – it can also be used to prevent complications before they become larger problems.

If you feel you could benefit from occupational therapist, speak to your medical practitioner about speak with a registered occupational therapist.

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