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What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy (OT) helps people across their lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the use of daily activities. Services typically include:

  • individualized evaluation
  • customized intervention
  • outcome evaluation

The practitioners have a holistic perspective, focusing on adapting the environment to fit the person. This can include self-care, work and play/leisure activities to increase independence, enhance development and/or prevent a disability. The following are areas of practice for OT:

  • pediatric
  • acute care in hospitals
  • inpatient rehabilitation
  • rehabilitation centers
  • skilled nursing facilities
  • home health
  • outpatient clinics
  • specialist assessment centers
  • assisted living facilities
  • productive aging
  • mental health

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Occupational Therapy Process

OT can increase the function and independency of a person in regards to physical limitations. It enables them to perform activities alone, with limited help or with the use of devices. The steps of OT are as follows:

  • referral
  • information gathering
  • initial assessment
  • needs identification/problem formation
  • goal setting
  • action planning
  • action
  • ongoing assessment and changing action accordingly
  • outcome and outcome measurement
  • end of intervention or discharge
  • review

Types

The types of OT interventions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Assistive Technology/Adaptive Equipment: Item, piece of equipment or product system to help maintain or improve a client’s ability.
  • Basic Activities of Daily Living: This is designed to improve or encourage self-maintenance such as showering, dressing and eating.
  • Behavioral Intervention: This type of intervention modifies behavior.
  • Career: This improves performance, function or quality of life of careers.
  • Cognition: This intervention is designed to improve or optimize cognitive skills such as memory, orientation, attention, reasoning and problem solving. Cognitive development, remediation of cognitive skills and compensatory strategies such as diary use are involved in this type of intervention.
  • Community Living: This improves or enables the performance of community living skills such as shopping, budgeting and use of public transport or driving.
  • Creative Therapy: This includes the use of creative outlets such as music, dance therapy, and arts and crafts.
  • Ergonomics: This improves the how well the person is able to do tasks or work at home.
  • Hand Therapy: All aspects of hand therapy intervention are used such as splinting, passive and active exercises and mobilization.
  • Health Promotion: This is aimed at promoting health or preventing illness/disability.
  • Daily Instrumental Activities: This is to optimize the person’s ability in activities in and around the home including cleaning, laundry and meal preparation.
  • Relaxation/Stress Management: This reduces anxiety, muscular tension and stress.
  • Social: This intervention includes assertiveness training, anger management and conflict resolution.

Occupational Therapy Methods

There are many different techniques and equipment that can be used as a part of OT. Most times, the aim of this therapy is to develop or maintain a satisfying routine of meaningful everyday activities. Knowing that, the therapist will look at the activity the person is having difficulty with and see if there is another way it can be completed.

An occupational therapist will help find new ways to perform a task by breaking it down to small individual movements. For example, if a person is unable to get up from a chair without assistance, the therapist will go through each stage of the movement until the person can do it on their own.

Most occupational therapists recommend and train on the use of devices to help people function more independently, known as assistive devices. These devices include the following:

  • Orthoses: These devices support damaged joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones. Most orthoses are custom made based on the person’s needs and anatomy.
  • Splints: These can be used to prevent joints from freezing in a flexed position by holding the limb straight.
  • Walking Aids: These include walkers, crutches and canes and help people support their weight, balance or both.
  • Wheelchairs: These enable people to get around if they are unable to walk.
  • Mobility Scooters: These are batter powered wheelchairs with a steering wheel and are useful for people who can only stand and walk short distances.
  • Prostheses: These are artificial body parts and are used to help people who have had a limb amputated.

For children, an occupational therapist may find a game or activity they can do every day. This can be aimed at improving:

  • hand strength
  • concentration
  • social skills

Occupational Therapy Test

A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) measures a person’s ability to perform activities related to their employment including. Similar types of testing include a Functional Capacity Assessment (FCA), Physical Capacity Assessment or Evaluation (PCA or PCE) or Work Capacity Assessment or Evaluation (WCA or WCE).

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