What is Occupational Therapy?

What is Occupational Therapy?

By Chanon Vallas MS, OTR/L, CHT for ATI Physical Therapy

Occupational therapy is a profession that helps people do the things that they want and need to do across their lifespan. The word “occupation” encompasses a wide range of daily activities. Occupational therapy interventions assist individuals with psychological and/or physical barriers that interfere with their ability to carry out their occupations independently. This could be working with a person with cognition deficits impacting their ability to problem-solve, a child with developmental delays impacting their ability to perform school work, an individual who has sustained a neurologic event impacting their ability to perform self-care, or an individual that sustained a traumatic injury to their hand and is unable to work. 

Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment and/or tasks to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team. They perform individualized evaluations and develop customized interventions that are client centered with the client’s goals as the priority. They incorporate outcome evaluations to ensure that the goals are being met. Occupational therapy is an evidence-based practice deeply rooted in science.

Hand therapy is just one specialty area, out of many, in which occupational therapists can specialize and become experts. Occupational therapists can advanced their specialty by becoming certified hand therapists (CHTs). To qualify to be a CHT and sit for a board exam, one has to be an occupational therapist or physical therapist for three years and obtain hours in the field of hand therapy. CHTs partner with individuals that have sustained an injury to the upper extremity that is impacting their ability to carry out their occupations independently. Through a commitment between the therapist and client, they work together to meet the clients individual goals to achieve independence with the function of their arm.

To learn more about occupational therapy and how it might help you, visit the American Occupational Therapy Association’s website.