What is Occupational Therapy?

What is Occupational Therapy?
What is Occupational Therapy?

What is occupational therapy?

According to The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), “Occupational therapists (OT) and occupational therapy assistants (OTA) help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations).” When working with an OT, clients receive an individualized evaluation and treatment plan focused on the following occupations:

  • Activities of Daily Living (ADL including bathing, getting dressed, eating, etc)
  • Instrumental Activities of Daily Livings (IADL includes cooking, driving, housework, managing finances, medication management)
  • Rest and sleep
  • Education
  • Work
  • Play
  • Leisure
  • Social participation

Occupational therapists work within the following areas:

  • Children and youth
  • Health and wellness (ie lifestyle redesign, prevention)
  • Productive aging
  • Rehabilitation / physical disability
  • Mental Health
  • Work and Industry (ie functional capacity evaluations, work hardening, ergonomics)
Where do occupational therapists practice?

Where do they practice?

  • Schools
  • Private clinics / outpatient therapy clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Inpatient rehabilitation programs (also known as ARU or IPR by insurance companies)
  • Home Health
  • Skilled nursing facilities

What is the difference between an occupational therapist (OT) and an occupational therapy assistant (OTA)?

The three largest areas of differences include level of education, responsibility and annual salary. Occupational therapists are required to have a masters or doctoral degree in occupational therapy and pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy exam (NBCOT). In short, they are responsible for evaluating clients, creating treatment plans and supervising OTAs. Occupational therapy assistants are required to have an associates degree and pass the OTA exam provided by the NBCOT.  Both careers require coursework in ethics, biology, psychology, anatomy and physiology, medical terminology and rehabilitative theory. In 2019, the U.S. News and World Report listed occupational therapy jobs as #11 in Beast Health Care Jobs and #13 in 100 Best Jobs overall. Occupational therapy assistants came in at #22 for Best Health Care Support Jobs.

OTs have an incredible amount of career flexibility given the different populations of people they serve.  Therapists have the opportunity to continue their learning and earn any of the following certifications:

  • Hand therapy
  • Physical Agent Modalities (PAMS) includes, but is not limited to, paraffin baths, hot/cold packs, contrast baths, ultrasound, electrical stimulation units.
  • Gerontology (BCG)
  • Mental Health (BCMH)
  • Pediatrics (BCP)
  • Physical Rehabilitation (BCPR)
  • Driving and Community Mobility (SCDCM or SCDCM-A)
  • Environmental Modifications (SCEM or SCEM-A)
  • Feeding, Eating and Swallowing (SCFES or SCFES-A)
  • Low Vision (SCLV or SCLV-A)
  • School Systems (SCSS or SCSS-A)
What is the difference between an occupational therapist (OT) and an occupational therapy assistant (OTA)?

Take home points:

  • The clients voice matters! OTs offer their clients an individualized evaluation and treatment plan WITH the input from the client and/or other stakeholders (ie family, caregivers, school/work personnel, etc).
  • OTs believe that participation in activities improve overall health and well-being. If you’ve got goals, write them down because there’s an OT out there ready to help you!
  • Even though many people have a hard time explaining what occupational therapy is, the profession is highly skilled and the clinicians have 6+ years of education.
  • How do you find an occupational therapist in California?  Search RehabGAB.com! Can’t find what you’re looking for? Send us an e-mail @ info@RehabGAB.com


April 9, 2019 / 3 Comments / by / in