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What is occupational therapy?

Published on April 14, 2016

What is occupational therapy?

Anne Johnson, Occupational Therapist
CentraCare Health – Long Prairie

Occupational therapy focuses on achieving function through therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations).Occupational therapy focuses on achieving function through therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations). From assisting children to develop necessary skills through play to helping seniors remain safely in their homes, the goal of an occupational therapist is to help people live life to its fullest.

Occupational therapy can be appropriate for people of all ages. There are occupational therapists working in neonatal intensive care units working with preterm or sick infants to promote normal sleeping, feeding and bonding skills. OTs work with children in school settings or clinics using play to develop the coordination, strength and social skills they need to function in school and throughout their lifespan. Into adulthood, occupational therapy focuses on the ability to live a productive life with as much independence as possible.

Modifications are a big part of occupational therapy for all ages. There is a strong emphasis on training the patient in alternative methods or adaptive equipment to promote function. This can be use of a wheelchair for mobility, assistive devices throughout the home and setting up a person’s environment for accessibility. Because work is a major part of our lives, occupational therapists address setup of the work environment and ergonomics to reduce strain or potential for injury.

Occupational therapy services typically include:

  • an individualized evaluation, during which the client/family and occupational therapist determine the person’s goals
  • customized intervention to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals
  • an outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan

Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment and/or task to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team. It is an evidence-based practice deeply rooted in science.

If you or someone you know would like further information about what occupational therapy could do for you, please speak with your health care provider about a possible referral.

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