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What Exactly Is Occupational Therapy?

March 31, 2020

You’ve probably read before that rehabilitation services typically include a combination of therapy types, including physical, speech and occupational therapy. But do you really have a good understanding of what occupational therapy is?

April is National Occupational Therapy month, a month designed to increase awareness about occupational therapists and the important work they do. This awareness month provides us with the perfect opportunity to shine some light on this type of specialty therapy.

Let’s take a deeper dive into what occupational therapy is, what it involves and who can benefit.

What Is Occupational Therapy?
First things first, let’s put a definition with this type of therapy. You probably know that physical therapy helps people recover physical abilities after some type of injury or illness or having a surgical procedure. Speech therapy, then, helps people recover communication abilities and  can also help with difficulties swallowing.

But what does occupational therapy do? Contrary to its name, occupational therapy isn’t solely focused on skills and abilities required for an occupation, as in a job. But that can be some of what’s involved!

For the purposes of therapy, an “occupation” is any activity that occupies a person’s time. So, that may include work, but also includes many other roles and activities.

Occupational therapy helps people relearn or maintain the ability to perform activities involved in daily life, including basics like bathing or cooking, along with specific skills such as driving or work-related tasks. This type of therapy helps individuals regain or keep their independence even in the face of new circumstances.

What Does Occupational Therapy Include?
The first step of any type of therapy program is to determine your specific needs. So your first appointment will typically involve a thorough assessment of your abilities, your challenges and your goals.

Depending on your specific needs and what you’re aiming for, your occupational therapist may visit your home or work environment to determine what skills you need or where you can benefit from assistive devices and equipment. The therapist will then work to put together a therapy plan based on your individual needs. This plan may include:

  • Coaching on how to perform an activity, either normally or using an assistive device
  • The use of techniques to strengthen muscles and flexibility to perform functional tasks
  • Education related to how to perform activities for both patients and their families or caretakers
  • Reteaching of abilities lost due to an illness or injury or following a surgical procedure
  • Support in accessing services and equipment needed to perform normal activities
  • Guidance related to necessary changes in the home or work environment 

Depending on your specific needs, you may also receive other types of therapy, including physical therapy and speech therapy, to help you recover or maintain abilities. 

Who Needs Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy is beneficial for patients of all ages and abilities. This type of therapy can be helpful to regain abilities if they’re lost, maintain abilities and learn skills and gain aptitudes, in the case of children.

For older adults, for example, occupational therapy can be helpful in providing guidance and coaching on how to handle diminished cognitive or physical abilities. Therapy in this age group may include fall prevention techniques and help installing and using assistive devices.

Occupational therapy can also be beneficial for those who are faced with some type of visual impairment. Diminished vision is among the top 10 disabilities among American adults, and it becomes more common as we age. 

That’s what makes this specialty so unique—occupational therapy can help people of all ages, needs and abilities achieve goals, stay healthy and active and maintain or rebuild independence.

Sports Plus Rehab Centers offer a full spectrum of rehabilitation services, including occupational therapy. With 14 clinics across west Tennessee, Sports Plus is conveniently located close to you.