Essentially, they help people to do the activities or tasks which have meaning to them, that illness, disability, or ageing may be making harder for the person to do. They do this by assessing the person as a whole, looking at various factors – physical, mental, and environmental – that could be preventing them from doing what they want to do, and suggest ways to get around or overcome them. This could involve recommending products that could make doing tasks easier, such as a perching stool if the person finds it hard to stand for long periods, or a different way entirely of doing it.
Are they like physiotherapists?
No, a Physiotherapist is there to help people restore their movement and physical function, while Occupational Therapists are concerned with helping people achieve tasks that have meaning for them, whether that’s as simple as being able to take a relaxing bath or something that may require a little more effort, such as gardening or baking a favourite cake.
Do they get involved with Occupational Health?
A common mistake is mixing up an OT with the Occupational Health department in a workplace. Despite the similarity in name, Occupational Health works purely to help keep employees physically and mentally well while at work, whereas OTs work with people anywhere.
OTs look at the person as a whole. This means taking into account things like their condition, what their environment is like, and what their occupations are (these are things like daily chores, favourite hobbies they enjoy, how they feed themselves etc.) in order to suggest helpful ways to make the person’s life easier.
What’s the difference between an OT and an OTA?
There is some crossover as to what duties an OT and an OTA will do, but the biggest difference is in training. An OT will usually have a degree in occupational therapy, whereas an OTA won’t (although they may be working towards one or hold another qualification). OTAs are usually supervised by an OT and are also highly skilled members of the team, getting on the job training and helping to support clients as needed.