What Does an OTA Do?

Are you interested in occupational therapy and wondering what does an OTA do? A growing, diverse career path, occupational therapy rehabilitates individuals with mental, physical or developmental impairments. Whether someone has trouble performing day-to-day activities due to an illness, injury or disability, occupational therapy is about teaching people how to work within their limitations so they can live as independently as possible.

Occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) work under the guidance of an occupational therapist (OT) in various practice areas and settings. While the OT evaluates and develops treatment plans for clients/patients, the OTA puts those plans into action, teaching individuals how to overcome the challenges of performing daily activities.

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Areas of Practice

Certified occupational therapy assistants (COTAs) work within six occupational therapy practice areas. 

1. Children and Youth

OTAs work with children who are at risk of developing disabilities, helping them to improve their motor skills, cognitive skills, and sensory processing to minimize the potential for developmental delays.

2. Productive Aging

OTAs help dementia patients through behavioral interventions (aka treatment plans), addressing personality changes concerning their families and caregivers.

3. Health and Wellness

OTAs help people with arthritis, teaching them how to manage inflammation or identifying orthotic devices that help them control pain, which improves their self-esteem.

4. Mental Health

OTAs teach individuals with Down syndrome how to gain their independence through self-care activities such as eating, dressing, and playing. 

5. Rehabilitation and Disability

OTAs help people overcome physical challenges, recommending mobility changes to everyday equipment, such as adding foot straps to bicycle pedals.

6. Work and Industry

OTAs help employees with work-related lower back injuries through supervised therapeutic exercises, reconditioning, and on-site interventions. 

Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy

People often confuse occupational therapy with physical therapy. Occupational therapy works to improve the life skills or vocational path of clients/patients. It is a form of rehabilitation that helps people overcome or adapt to their functional deficiencies to live as independently as possible.

Physical therapy, by contrast, diagnoses and treats specific injuries and movement dysfunction in patients. It is a form of rehabilitation that helps people manage physical pain by using techniques such as exercise and massage instead of undergoing surgery or developing a long-term reliance on medication.

You can read our blog for more information on the differences between occupational and physical therapy and help you answer the question, “What does an OTA do?”

OT doing exercises with child patient
close up of stethoscope and iPad on desk

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Contact us to get moving toward a career as an occupational therapy assistant.