What does an occupational therapist do?

Occupational therapy is a profession dedicated to helping individuals of all ages live their lives to the fullest. Occupational therapists (OTs) are healthcare professionals who work with people experiencing physical, cognitive, or emotional challenges to help them engage in meaningful activities and achieve independence in their daily lives.

But what exactly does an occupational therapist do?

Occupational therapists work with individuals and groups of people who may have physical, mental or intellectual challenges that may compromise their ability to participate in the routines of daily living.

In PEI, occupational therapists work in a variety of settings including acute care hospitals, rehabilitation programs, home care programs, long term care facilities, community mental health, private practice, administration, schools and early childcare centres, workplaces, and the Workers Compensation Board.

The goal of occupational therapy is to minimize or prevent the effects of these challenges on people's lives, enabling them to carry out their roles as independently as possible.

Assessment and evaluation

One of the primary roles of an occupational therapist is to conduct assessments and evaluations to understand a client's strengths, limitations, and goals. This may involve observing the client performing various tasks, evaluating their physical abilities, cognitive functions, and psychological well-being, and assessing their home or work environment.

Treatment planning

Based on the assessment findings, occupational therapists develop individualized treatment plans tailored to each client's unique needs and goals. These plans often incorporate therapeutic activities, exercises, adaptive equipment, and environmental modifications to improve the client's ability to perform daily activities and participate in meaningful occupations.

Therapeutic interventions

Occupational therapists use a variety of therapeutic interventions to help clients develop, regain, or maintain the skills needed for daily living. These interventions may include:

  • Physical rehabilitation: helping clients improve strength, range of motion, coordination, and mobility through exercises and activities
  • Cognitive rehabilitation: Working with clients to improve memory, attention, problem-solving, and other cognitive skills through structured tasks and exercises
  • Psychosocial support: Providing emotional support, coping strategies, and social skills training to help clients manage the psychological and emotional aspects of their conditions
  • Functional training: Teaching clients techniques and strategies to perform daily activities more efficiently and independently, such as dressing, grooming, cooking, and driving
  • Adaptive equipment: Recommending and training clients to use assistive devices, adaptive equipment, and technology to enhance their independence and participation in daily life

Client education

Occupational therapists are crucial in educating clients and their families about their conditions, treatment options, and strategies for managing their symptoms. They empower clients to actively participate in their rehabilitation process and make informed decisions about their health and well-being.

Collaboration and advocacy

Occupational therapists often collaborate with other healthcare professionals, educators, employers, and community organizations to support their clients' holistic needs. They may advocate for policy changes, accessibility improvements, and inclusive practices to promote equal opportunities and participation for people with disabilities.

Continuing care and support

Occupational therapy is about achieving short-term goals and promoting long-term independence, well-being, and quality of life. Occupational therapists provide ongoing support, follow-up care, and adjustments to treatment plans as clients progress and their needs evolve.

In summary, occupational therapists are dedicated professionals who help individuals overcome obstacles, maximize their potential, and live life to the fullest. Whether it is recovering from an injury, managing a chronic condition, or adapting to a disability, occupational therapists are there to provide support, guidance, and expertise every step of the way.