OTA ExplainedOTA Field

What Does an Occupational Therapy Assistant Do at Work?

Occupational therapy assistants create treatment plans, support occupational therapists in implementing treatment, and work directly with clients from all walks of life. OTAs provide specialized care that is tailored to the individual in an effort to make their daily life more comfortable and help people remain independent.  

OTA working with client in kitchen setting

Occupational therapy is a diverse field, catering to a wide range of practice areas. If you want an exciting career in healthcare, becoming a certified occupational therapy assistant is a great path that will challenge and excite you. Occupational Therapy Assistants (OTAs) work with occupational therapists to find the right treatment for clients who wish to remain independent following an injury, illness or other circumstances. Helping these clients effectively can require thinking outside the box.

So, what exactly does an occupational therapy assistant do? Occupational therapy assistants help people live more meaningful lives by implementing processes and adaptations into their clients’ daily routines to ensure they can function comfortably. Put simply, OTAs make people’s lives better by creatively problem solving.

In this blog, we’ll talk more about what it is that OTAs do, as well as highlight some of the latest treatments.

Occupational Therapy Assistants Give Personalized Care

Occupational therapy assistants support occupational therapists in helping people with disabilities, illnesses and injuries to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) — the everyday tasks one must be able to perform for independence.

Obviously, some patients, such as those with Alzheimer’s disease, may never be able to live independently, but can benefit from occupational therapy.

The key to understanding the relationship between OTs and OTAs is the word “support.” OTs evaluate their clients’ conditions and prescribe treatment plans to be carried out by OTAs. However, this can be a little misleading.

While occupational therapists determine treatment plans, occupational therapy assistants are generally trusted to use their expertise to get creative with treatments.

Every client is different, and you will no doubt need to adjust to better accommodate and tailor a prescribed intervention.

Due to the many needs served by occupational therapy, you can find OTAs in a number of settings, including hospitals, rehab centers, schools, nursing homes, retirement communities and more.

OTA working outside with a child with text that reads

Find out more about where OTAs work.

One of the best things about being an OTA is that every day is different, bringing with it new challenges and opportunities.

7 Examples of an OTA’s Client Base

Because of the nature of occupational therapy, occupational therapy assistants can perform a variety of duties in one day. Here are seven examples of common tasks they complete:

  1. Work with a child who, while proficient with touchscreen devices, lacks the muscle strength and coordination to use a pen or pencil.
  2. Supervise an adult with a back injury as they work through therapeutic exercises.
  3. Help a stroke survivor relearn impacted skills such as buttoning a shirt, tying shoes, etc.
  4. Visit an elderly client’s home and recommend modifications that will allow them to remain at home.
  5. Advise family members and caregivers about changes in a dementia patient’s personality.
  6. Teach an individual with a developmental disability how to eat and dress on their own.
  7. Work with someone with Parkinson’s disease to help them strengthen the neck muscles needed to swallow food and communicate.

Because no two clients are the same, OTs and OTAs often find themselves getting creative to help make a difference, which brings us to some of the most intriguing occupational therapy treatments.

The six areas of occupational therapy explained.

Being an OTA means you’ll never be bored.

Occupational Therapy Assistants Get Creative

Given the growing demand for occupational therapy, there seems to be no shortage of new and interesting occupational therapy interventions.

As we mentioned above, sometimes occupational therapy assistants must get creative and figure out what will be most beneficial to their clients. This can include treatments in a clinical setting, but sometimes it takes a little…horsing around.

OTAs Can Implement Animal-Assisted Therapy

Upon reading “animal-assisted therapy,” your mind probably went straight to everyone’s favorite furry friend, the dog. It’s not surprising — dogs are the most common therapy and service animals, and more U.S. households have dogs than any other pet.

Why? Dogs are relatively easy to train, vary in size and have a knack for detecting slight changes in the behavior of their human counterparts. However, dogs aren’t the only stars of animal therapy — the list of therapy animals includes horses, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, birds and even reptiles.

The American Occupational Therapy Association says animals have been found to provide comfort and grounding to people with dementia and other cognitive issues, as well as provide many other benefits. In fact, AOTA even completed a study that showed incorporating dogs into activities at a nursing home with dementia patients seemed to reduce depression.

Of note, autism researchers are seeing great promise in animal-assisted occupational therapy interventions for children on the autism spectrum, who may struggle to connect with people.

While animal-assisted therapy has been shown to get people who otherwise would not talk to do so, it’s not the only therapy that’s been successful in getting people talking…

OTAs Can Utilize Music/Sound in Therapy

It’s long been known that music has the power to stimulate different regions of the brain. From increasing concentration and decreasing pain to initiating movement and fostering social interaction, music boasts many applications in occupational therapy — both on its own and combined with other interventions.

It’s also known that learning and playing an instrument can prove a fun way to enhance motor skills, build social confidence, regulate emotional responses to situations and stressors, and more.

Music therapy can also be found in nursing homes, schools and many other places where occupational therapy is provided. It’s even being used to help stroke survivors improve movement and coordination.

Women playing instruments on couch

OTAs Can Incorporate Art as Media to Support Therapeutic Goals

By now, it’s pretty obvious that a lot of occupational therapy interventions hardly seem like therapy at all. A lot of them sound, well, fun — and that’s kind of the point.

OTs and OTAs routinely pair more traditional occupational therapy methods with art therapy, such as painting and making crafts, to teach and rehabilitate motor skills.

Whether assisting children with developmental disabilities or helping stroke survivors who are struggling to relearn basic skills, such as button a shirt or holding a paintbrush, art therapy has widespread applications in the OT field.

Artistic expression can also be helpful in getting people with cognitive disabilities like autism and dementia out of their shells.

Earn Your OTA Degree from St. Kate’s in as Few as 16 Months

What an occupational therapy assistant does is incredibly valuable to clients and can have lasting effects on the OTA. Changing someone’s life for the better through occupational therapy is a rewarding and achievable career path — and one you could be on sooner than you may think.

Interested in finding out how you can pursue an exciting career as an occupational therapy assistant? With three start dates each year and spots available now, you can start working toward becoming an OTA sooner than you might think.

Call us at 877.223.2677 or request that an admissions counselor reach out to you to learn more about our Online OTA program.

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