May 23, 2022

What Is an Occupational Therapist?

occupational therapist

An occupational therapist is a licensed healthcare professional who helps people facing physical, mental, emotional, and developmental challenges to perform everyday activities more effectively. Although the term “occupation” is often used when talking about professions, it also can refer to the activities of daily living.   

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

Occupational therapists, sometimes referred to as OTs, use different therapeutic techniques to improve a patient’s ability to perform a wide range of tasks. Specifically, they take some or all these actions as needed:

  • Learn about the patient’s injury, illness, or other condition
  • Assess the patient’s needs at home and/or work
  • Develop a plan for improving the patient’s ability to perform specific activities
  • Recommend modifications to the patient’s home and/or work environment to meet their needs and increase their independence
  • Assess the patient’s progress toward the objectives in their treatment plan

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do for Adults and Children Specifically?

Occupational therapists work with patients of all ages. Conditions they address that are more common in adults include:

Occupational therapists also work with people who face mental health challenges. This can include helping them develop effective daily routines and solve problems that make their life difficult at home or work. 

With children, occupational therapists assist them in addressing conditions such as:

What Is an Example of Occupational Therapy?

An example of how an occupational therapist helps a patient might be assisting someone who has suffered a stroke. Patients who have impaired movement of their arms and hands can find it difficult to feed themselves. 

An OT would address this situation by developing a treatment plan that includes exercises for increasing the strength, flexibility, and coordination the person needs to raise a glass to their lips, cut their food, etc. Then, they would work with the patient on completing those exercises regularly to improve their functioning. 

Occupational therapists also work with caregivers to help them understand a patient’s limitations and the exercises being used to overcome them. The caregiver can then reinforce what the patient is being taught by the OT.  

What Is an Occupational Therapist Assistant and What Do They Do?

Occupational therapist assistants (OTAs) are healthcare professionals who have an associate’s degree from an accredited occupational therapy assistant program. Similar to occupational therapists, they help patients develop, recover, or improve the skills they need to complete tasks at home and work. 

While occupational therapists evaluate patients and develop treatment plans, OTAs are focused on implementing those plans by doing things like setting up equipment and assisting patients with their exercises.

What Are the Goals of Occupational Therapy?

The focus of occupational therapy is to empower patients to function as effectively and independently as possible. This includes both improving the skills a person needs and helping them maintain those skills.   

Learn About Occupational Therapy at Baptist Health

If you or a loved one faces physical, mental, emotional, or developmental challenges that affect work or home activities, Baptist Health can help. Learn about the occupational medicine and therapy services we provide. 

Next Steps and Useful Resources:
What is an Occupational Medicine Clinic?

Learn More.