What is Occupational Therapy?

“What is an Occupational Therapist?” “What exactly do they do?” “It must be something to do with helping me in my occupation.” Ah…the age old questions that arise from the topic of Occupational Therapy.

Occupational therapy is an allied health profession in which assessment and intervention are conducted to enable people to participate in the everyday occupations of life. Occupational Therapists focus on maximising people’s independence to participate in everyday activities and what is important to them by prescribing assistive and adaptive devices, and teaching alternative ways to perform activities safely.

Daily activities of living can be categorised into self-care activities such as showering, dressing, meal preparation and feeding; productive activities such as work, education and caring for others; and leisure activities such as hobbies and participating in the community.

The areas of expertise of an occupational therapist are assistive technology prescription, home modifications, pressure injury management, cognitive assessment and therapy, activities of daily living assessment and retraining, sensory training, upper limb therapy, education and support including carer education, discharge planning and driving assessments.

Specialising in a broad range of areas means that occupational therapists play a crucial role in assisting people of all ages throughout life who present with physical, cognitive and/or sensory problems. Those who benefit from occupational therapy have problems including but not limited to:  

  • Poor mobility and recurring falls
  • Difficulty with self care and house chores
  • Inability to participate in hobbies (e.g. bowling, knitting, drawing, painting, dancing, gardening)
  • Inability to fulfill work requirements
  • Difficulty with shopping
  • Loss of confidence in going out into the community and therefore unable to participate in social outings with friends
  • High risk of developing pressure sores due to inactivity
  • Difficulty driving
  • Poor problem solving skills and impaired memory

We often take our ability to do daily tasks, from the simple to the complex, for granted. It is not until we lose them that we realise how important they are and how frustrating it is to perform the simplest tasks such as doing up the buttons on your shirt or remembering the time to take your medications.

Thankfully, there are solutions in the form of occupational therapy! 

Find out how occupational therapists can help in falls prevention here.