Occupation: It’s what we do

Today’s blog is to not only promote OT week, but to address the age-old question, ‘What do Occupational Therapists do?!’

Whether you’re a parent of a child who receives OT services, or you work with an OT, or if you are an OT, it’s undeniable that at some point in time you’ve tried to explain exactly what an OT does. It’s also highly likely that you’ve used lots of ‘err,’ and ‘umm’ in that explanation! Let’s hope that you managed to work in a few words like ‘enable’ and ‘meaningful’ and ‘everyday activities’ As long as you were promoting us in a good light, you’re heading in the right direction!

So why is it so difficult to provide a clear explanation?  It’s not like OT is a new profession; in fact, it’s been around since the 1700’s! And according to statistics, there are approximately 900 OT’s currently practising in South Australia alone! I find myself often explaining what OT is NOT, more commonly, ‘no, it’s not like physiotherapy’.

To give you a definition that you could memorise and recite, ‘Occupational Therapy is incorporating meaningful and purposeful occupation to enable people with limitations or impairments to participate in everyday life’. Did you get that?!

The first word that often stumps many people is ‘occupation’. For most people, occupation is synonymous with ‘job’, or what you do for a living. As the word implies, an occupation can be described as anything occupies your time everyday.  So for most adults, employment is one of their most important (and perhaps meaningful) occupations. But what about everyone else? A meaningful occupation for children is play. Play enables them to learn and develop. For people with a disability, their meaningful and purposeful occupations may be activities of daily living, such as washing themselves, using cutlery or even getting in and out of bed independently.

‘But there are thousands upon thousands of possible activities that people across all ages may find meaningful and purposeful’, you may say. That is why OT’s can be found working in hospital settings, rehabilitation settings, community health centres, aged care facilities, home care services, children’s centres, schools, mental health settings, vocational rehabilitation settings, independent living centres and private practice. And this is why OT’s play such an important and vital role for so many people, allowing them to live life to the fullest!

And if you were wondering what an OT may look like, here’s a few that can be found at OTFC…

And of course, OT is FUN!!

So that’s my understanding of what Occupational Therapy is. What do you think OT’s do?!


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