What is Occupational Therapy?

by Kelli Slifer, CHT

The word “occupation” is synonymous with a job or a profession, so, often times, patients are confused when they are told they need to see an occupational therapist.  Especially those patients who might be retired or not old enough to have a job yet.  However, the definition of “occupation” to an occupational therapist is “meaningful everyday activities”.  So everyone, no matter your age, has occupations.  From the toddler whose occupations are play and the development of important skills, to the older adult whose occupations are engaging with family and friends and managing his or her home, and everyone in between – We all have occupations!

Imagine if an accident, injury, disease, or condition made it difficult for you to participate in your meaningful everyday activities.  A wrist injury could make getting dressed in the morning painful.  Arthritis can make driving challenging.  Developmental disability can hinder a child from interacting effectively with classmates.  A stroke or traumatic brain injury can limit a person’s ability to work because of difficulty with memory or organizational skills.  Occupational therapy helps people across the lifespan do the activities they want and need to do. 

Occupational therapists are skilled healthcare practitioners who will evaluate a patient’s situation and, with input from the patient and/or their family or caregiver, develop individualized goals that allow the patient to resume or pursue their meaningful activities.  The occupational therapist will develop a specific intervention or treatment plan and work together with the patient to improve or maintain their ability to perform daily activities. 

In order to practice, occupational therapists must complete an accredited occupational therapy program (currently master’s level) including clinical rotations and pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam.  After successful completion, occupational therapists must obtain licensure from the state in which they work. 

Some occupational therapists choose to specialize in certain treatment areas.  At OrthoNeuro, the occupational therapists, through advanced continuing education, clinical experience and knowledge in anatomy, specialize in the treatment of hand and upper extremity disorders.  They provide non-operative interventions, preventative care and post-surgical rehabilitation for a wide variety of hand and upper extremity conditions.  Through the use of various techniques including activity and exercise programs, custom orthotic fabrication, management of pain and swelling, and scar/wound care the occupational therapists bridge the gap between the medical management of hand and upper extremity conditions to successful recovery, improving their patient’s function and ability to participate in meaningful daily activities. 

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