What Does an Occupational Therapy Assistant Do?
As an occupational therapy assistant, you will work with a registered occupational therapist (OTR) to help your clients return to living their everyday lives with a sense of independence, regardless of physical, emotional, or mental challenges.
This is different from many other types of therapy. Whereas physical therapy may help a client return to a normalized state, occupational therapy shows clients how to adjust to their limitations while still accomplishing the same daily tasks.
Certified occupational therapy assistants, or COTAs, work with clients in a variety of practice areas.
OTA Career Explained
The 6 OTA Practice Areas
1. Children and Youth
As an OTA in the children and youth practice area, you might work with children who have autism, sensory processing disorders, physical limitations, or learning challenges.
For example, OTAs help children learn how to use toys and tools, better control their coordination, and adjust to various education activities in a variety of ways.
2. Productive Aging
In the productive aging practice area, OTAs help the elderly maintain as much independence as possible. This may involve teaching new ways to do everyday tasks such as bathing, cleaning, or cooking. Or you might help a client adapt to the use of a wheelchair or walker.
You may also visit your clients in their homes and make adaptations so they can continue to live independently. These adaptations could help them complete tasks such as navigating stairs, doing laundry, caring for pets, or bathing and dressing themselves.
3. Health and Wellness
In health and wellness, OTAs work with those with chronic diseases, including chronic pain, diabetes, and other diseases. In this role, OTAs can help clients of all ages improve and maintain mobility, maintain healthy levels of activity and rest, and promote client health.
4. Mental Health
In a mental health environment, you will work with clients to develop essential life skills through roles and routines that help them overcome mental health challenges.
5. Rehabilitation and Disability
In the rehabilitation and disability practice area, you may help clients who have had an injury or illness regain independence to do what they want and need to do.
6. Work and Industry
As an occupational therapy assistant in the work and industry practice area, you will work with your clients to facilitate their return to work after an injury or illness. This may include special adaptation to a work environment or tasks or implementing strategies to help prevent injuries.
You may also help children and adults with developmental disabilities to provide them with the skills necessary to find satisfying work.
OT and OTA
An occupational therapist creates the treatment plan for the client, including evaluating and setting goals. As a COTA, you will implement the treatment plans and work with the OT to determine whether a plan should be adjusted.
Above all, you and your supervising OT will work as a team to treat your clients and help them do the things they want to do.
Getting Prepared through OTA Education
St. Catherine’s online OTA program provides you with the education you need to succeed as an occupational therapy assistant. Dedicated faculty and lab instructors will help you gain the knowledge and skills that you will need as a future OTA.
Fieldwork educators will provide you with hands-on opportunities to practice these skills with four different populations in real-life practice settings:
- 40 hours working with those with developmental disabilities
- 40 hours working with the aging population
- 320 hours working with persons with mental health challenges
- 320 hours working with those with physical disabilities
Your fieldwork experience, combined with online courses and skills labs in California, Texas or Virginia, prepares you for a career as an OTA. Your education will teach you how to work with clients, help you learn about the various environments you can work in as an OTA, and develop your understanding of the relationship between an occupational therapist and an occupational therapy assistant.
To get started on your future as an OTA through St. Catherine’s online OTA program, contact an admissions advisor today.