What is an Occupational Therapist?
Occupational therapy (OT) uses a variety of treatments to help maintain, recover, and develop the daily living skills of patients with mental, physical, or developmental conditions.
Occupational therapists start with an evaluation with a client and possibly their family to help determine the client’s goals. Then they will create a custom intervention to help the person perform activities daily so that he or she can reach those goals.
What is the difference between physical and occupational therapy? Both of these professions are related to healthcare and help patients regain functionality in their tasks, but they have a different focus.
The occupational therapist (often called an OT) focuses on modifying a patient’s physical environment and training them to use assistive equipment to help them accomplish their goals.
On the other hand, a physical therapist works to improve quality of life through increasing mobility and health of the person.
An example would be when an OT educates a person with limited mobility on how to avoid falls and sets them up with special equipment to help them, such as a walker.
A PT, by contrast, will work to improve the person’s mobility with different therapies that they will work on while together, and then possibly while at home.
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Sonia Considers Occupational Therapy
Sonia briefly considered occupational therapy when she was researching different schools. However since her friend Jill had studied physical therapy and offered to help her along the way, she thought that would be the best way to go.
While both professions have certain advantages, Sonya liked the hands-on aspect of being able to help a person improve their ability after surgery or some other injury. For her it just seemed like the best way to help people.
The average occupational therapist’s salary is 68,000 per year. If you’re willing to travel, the pay may be higher. Traveling therapists sometimes get additional benefits like free housing.
Health and wellness is a growing service for OT. It turns out there’s a connection between mental health, physical health, and wellness. It is possible to improve all three and increase the general wellness of the patient.
Therapists commonly work toward the prevention of injuries. They also help people with chronic disease.
Sometimes occupational therapists work with children, including infants and toddlers. They are able to assist families with psychosocial needs and help provide normal development, social skills, feeding, and play.
Some ways a therapist helps children is to create wellness programs to lower the rate of childhood obesity. They can work with students on handwriting. They also address psychosocial problems of children such as how to develop life strategies so they have better coping skills.
Therapists often work with adults who have various disabilities. Some areas they address might include education, coping skills, routine building, schedule maintenance, and social skills development.
A certified OT will typically have either a master’s or doctoral degree in occupational therapy. This should be from an accredited ACOTE school.
In order to practice as an OT in the United States, you must have at least a master’s degree and have passed the license examination. This will allow you to become a certified member of the National Board for Certification in occupational therapy.
Photo courtesy of mkosut