Society for Advances in Learning Disabilities

...healing through doing!

About Occupational Therapy

General Information

  1. What is Occupational Therapy?


    • Occupational therapy is many times associated with "jobs". While it does have applications with "jobs" as in paid employment, it more correctly relates to all the " jobs" needed for living…that is in the employment of everyday functions that humans indulge in.

    • The practice of occupational therapy means the therapeutic use of “occupations” that includes everyday life activities for the purpose of participation in roles and situations in every facet of life. It may be viewed in simpler terms as treatment by “occupying” the mind and body in purposeful, goal oriented tasks that aid in optimizing health and wellness.

    • Occupational therapy addresses the physical, cognitive/ psychosocial (mental/ behavioral), sensory, and other aspects of performance in a variety of contexts to support engagement in everyday life activities (or function) that affect health, well-being, and quality of life. This includes assessments and interventions aimed at modifying/ adapting the environment and equipment/ items used by individuals in order to optimize functional independence whether in school, home, workplace, or public recreational areas.

  2. What do occupational therapists do?

    While the practice of medicine/ surgery includes identification/ diagnosis of a pathological condition (that is, any deviation from anatomical or physiological conformity), the practice of occupational therapy includes identification/ diagnosis of functional limitations pertaining to the ability of individuals to participate and perform everyday activities ( that is, any deviation from the conformity of "occupational" performance).

    While physicians and surgeons use mainly pharmacological agents (medicines)and surgical methods to correct/ reduce the impact of a pathological condition, occupational therapy practitioners mainly use non-pharmacological/ non-surgical methods to eliminate/ reduce functional limitations.

    Occupational therapy practioners use a variety of interventions and procedures to promote or enhance safety and performance in activities of daily living (ADL), instrumental activities of daily living (IADL), rest and sleep, education, work, play, leisure, and social participation, including:

    1. Therapeutic use of occupations, exercises, and activities.

    2. Training in self-care, self-management, health management and maintenance, home management community/work reintegration, and school activities and work performance.

    3. Development, remediation, or compensation of neuromusculoskeletal, sensory and pain, visual, mental, perceptual, cognitive functions, and behavioral skills.

    4. Therapeutic use of self, including one’s personality, insights, perceptions, and judgments, as part of the therapeutic process.

    5. Education and training of individuals, including family members, caregivers, groups, populations, and others.

    6. Care coordination, case management, and transition services.

    7. Consultative services to groups, programs, organizations, or communities.

    8. Modification of environments (home, work, school, or community) and adaptation of processes, including the application of ergonomic principles.

    9. Assessment, design, fabrication, application, fitting, and training in seating and positioning, assistive technology, adaptive devices, and orthotic devices, and training in the use of prosthetic devices.

    10. Assessment, recommendation, and training in techniques to enhance functional mobility, including management of wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

    11. Low vision rehabilitation.

    12. Driver rehabilitation and community mobility.

    13. Management of feeding, eating, and swallowing to enable eating and feeding performance.

    14. Application of physical agent modalities, and use of a range of specific therapeutic procedures (such as wound care management; interventions to enhance sensory, perceptual, and cognitive processing; manual therapy techniques) to enhance performance skills.

    15. Facilitating the occupational performance of groups, populations, or organizations through the modification of environments and the adaptation of processes. ( AOTA, 2011)

  3. What are the educational/ training requirements for occupational therapy practitioners?

    • Occupational Therapists: Enter profession with bachelor’s/ baccalaureate, master’s or doctoral degrees. In India, WFOT/ AIOTA recognized education mandates a 4.5 years bachelor’s degree to enter professional practice. Specialization requires added education/ training. Occupational therapists may specialize in a variety of areas such as neurorehabilitation, physical/ orthopedic rehabilitation, geriatrics, low vision rehabilitation, pediatrics, feeding and swallowing disorders, assistive technology, driver rehabilitation, mental health, healthcare administration, industrial rehabilitation, ergonomics, disability analysis, etc.

    • Occupational Therapy Assistants (OTAs): Certain countries such as U.S.A. train technical level practitioners to assist professional occupational therapists in delivering services. OTAs enter practice with a 2 to 2.5-year associate’s degree (diploma) in occupational therapy assisting from an accredited college.

  4. What is the history of occupational therapy?

    A Brief History of Occupational Therapy:

    Occupational Therapy is one of the newest healthcare professions although it has many principles that were derived from practices of ancient civilizations. The earliest evidence of "occupations" used as method of treatment is based were documented around c. 100 BCE, where a greek physician Asclepiades initiated humane treatment of patients with mental illness using therapeutic baths, massage, exercise, and music. Later, the Roman Celsus prescribed music, travel, conversation and exercise to his patients (Quiroga, 1995). More recent development of the field involved the pioneering works of European healthcare revolutionaries such as Phillip Pinel and Johann Reil in the 18th century, and American psychiatrist, Adolf Meyer, in the late 19th century. The aftermath of World War I and World War II requiring rehabilitation of soldiers lead to the formation, and rapid growth of the profession with an unique professional identity separate from other medical fields. The National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy (the precursor organization to the American Occupational Therapy Association) was founded in 1917. Occupational Therapy was formally started in India with its first school (K.E.M. Hospital) in India in 1950. In 1951, the World Federal of Occupational Therapy (WFOT) was founded which currently is comprised of 69 national member organizations. The All India Occupational Therapists' Association (AIOTA) was founded in 1952.

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