What is Occupational Therapy?
What is Occupational Therapy (OT)?
What is occupational therapy and what do occupational therapists do?
Occupational therapy is a health and rehabilitation profession. Occupational therapists work with people of all ages who need specialized assistance to lead independent, productive, and satisfying lives due to physical, developmental, social, or emotional problems. Occupational therapists use the "occupations" of self-care, work, and play/leisure activities to increase independence, enhance development, and/or prevent disability. To achieve these goals occupational therapists may also adapt the task or the environment. For more information on occupational therapy visit the American Occupational Therapy Association web site.
What does occupational science mean?
Occupational science is a new discipline that provides the basic science information about "occupations" or activities that support the practice of occupational therapy. Occupational science studies how activities meet the needs of individuals and communities, and provide meaning and purpose to life; how activity produces changes in the individual and different patterns of occupation. This is similar to how sociology is applied in social work, and biology applied in medicine.
Is occupational therapy the same as physical therapy?
No, they are not the same.
Think of the physical therapist (PT) as someone who helps people with problems related to posture and mobility (problems with strength, flexibility, balance, etc.).
The occupational therapist (OT) helps people of all ages (from newborns to older adults) who have an illness or disability to do those things that are important and meaningful to them such as eating, dressing, school activities, and work. The OT helps by making changes in any of the things that may limit an individual's ability to do those tasks, including the environment, the task, or the person's skills needed for the task. OTs also have the knowledge and training to work with people with a mental illness or emotional problem such as depression and/or stress.
In general, PTs and OTs use many of the same techniques but the goals are different.
Where do occupational therapists work?
Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings. These could include hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing facilities, home health, outpatient clinics, private practice, school systems, private organizations, industry, and community agencies such as return to work programs, prisons, and community settings. The number of different places where OTs work is growing every year. For more information check out the "Top Ten Emerging Practice Areas" on the AOTA website.
What are the job outlook and salary expectations like for occupational therapists?
Although there was some contraction in the job market in the late 1990's, the future outlook is good for occupational therapists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting an increase in demand for occupational therapists in the future. Increasingly, OTs are developing new practice areas including school violence reduction, driver rehabilitation, ergonomics consulting, wellness, and welfare to work programs.
Salaries for occupational therapists have risen significantly over the last 10 years (33.6% from 1990-2000, according to the American Occupational Therapy Association 2000 Salary Survey). Starting salaries for occupational therapists averaged around $40,000 across the United States, with the average occupational therapist earning $47,398 per year. There are some regional and setting differences that affect these figures. (AOTA 2000 Salary Survey)
Who should study OT?
OT is a challenging and fascinating job combining creativity and problem solving with the ability to make practical, meaningful changes in a person's life. As an OT you will use your knowledge, critical thinking, and hands-on skills to help others. Since occupational therapists work intensely with people, good personal skills such as good communication skills, an interest and commitment to serving or helping other people, and an interest in social and biological sciences are also helpful.