Occupational therapy is a client-centred health profession concerned with promoting health and well being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement. (WFOT 2012)
In occupational therapy, occupations refer to the everyday activities that people do as individuals, in families and with communities to occupy time and bring meaning and purpose to life. Occupations include things people need to, want to and are expected to do.
For further information, read the "Definitions of Occupational Therapy from Member Organisations revised 2010" document in the Resources. This can be found in the 'Leadership & Advocacy' category.
Where Occupational Therapists work
Occupational therapists work with all age groups and in a wide range of physical and psychosocial areas.
Places of employment may include hospitals, clinics, day and rehabilitation centres, home care programmes, special schools, industry and private enterprise.
Many occupational therapists work in private practice and as educators and consultants.
How Occupational Therapists work
The occupational therapy process is based on initial and repeated assessments. The occupational therapist together with the person they are working with focus on individual and environmental abilities and problems related to activities in the person's daily life.
Assessment includes the use of standardised procedures, interviews, observations in a variety of settings and consultation with significant people in the person's life.
The results of the assessment are the basis of the plan which includes short and long-term aims of treatment. The plan should be relevant to the person's development stage, habits, roles, life-style preferences and the environment.
Intervention focuses on programs that are person oriented and environmental. These are designed to facilitate the performance of everyday tasks and adaptation of settings in which the person works, lives and socialises. Examples include teaching new techniques and providing equipment which facilitate independence in personal care, reducing environmental barriers and providing resources to lessen stress.
Occupational therapists recognise the importance of teamwork. Cooperation and coordination with other professionals, families, caregivers and volunteers are important in the realisation of the holistic approach.