What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy (OT) provides rehabilitative services to 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.

The rehabilitation process starts with a registered occupational therapist (OTR) assessing the client and creating a highly individualized treatment plan. He or she then provides the plan to a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA) who puts the plan into action and informs the occupational therapist of the client’s progress. Essentially, OTRs and COTAs work together to help their clients do the things they want and need to do on a daily basis.

What is an Occupational Therapy Assistant?

OTAs work in diverse practice areas and settings, helping:

  • Toddlers increase their social skills through play
  • Amputees learn how to function with a new artificial limb
  • Wheel-chair bound individuals navigate buildings on their own
  • Individuals with Down syndrome learn self-care activities
  • Senior citizens with dementia adapt to memory loss

OTAs and OTs work in the field of occupational therapy, a diverse and growing area of healthcare that helps people of all ages and abilities improve their life skills. It is a holistic form of therapy that concentrates on both the physical and cognitive aspects of rehabilitation. The treatment process often involves adaptive tools and/or environment modifications to fit the unique needs of the client/patient.

What’s to Love about OTA?

Occupational Therapy versus Physical Therapy

People often confuse occupational therapy and physical therapy. While practitioners in both fields help people improve their mobility and share job responsibilities at times, these two forms of therapy are inherently different.

Occupational therapy works to improve the life skills or vocational path of their clients/patients. It is a form of rehabilitation that helps people overcome or adapt to their functional deficiencies so they can live as independently as possible.

For example, occupational therapists help:

  • Children develop better hand muscle control so they can tie their shoes
  • People suffering from anxiety disorders build their social skills

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

For example, physical therapists help:

  • Athletes regain muscle strength and flexibility following a torn ligament
  • People with back problems manage their pain through special exercises

While these two forms of therapy serve different roles in healthcare, both of them perform vital rehabilitation work that helps keep people moving and functioning in daily life.

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

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