What is Occupational Therapy?  

If your healthcare provider recently advised you or your child to see an occupational therapist, you might have some questions. What is an occupational therapist (OT) exactly, and what sort of things does an OT do? What are the benefits of occupational therapy—and does it have anything to do with a person’s career or job?

As area leaders in adult therapy and pediatric therapy services, our team members at Therapeutic Potentials, Inc. are happy to answer questions from our Southwestern Florida community members. Read on to learn more about occupational therapy and how it can help you or your child.

What is Occupational Therapy?

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), occupational therapy is a field of healthcare that helps adults and children “participate in their desired occupations.” In this case, a person’s “occupation” doesn’t necessarily refer to their job or career (although occupational therapists certainly can and do help people improve their ability to participate in tasks related to work!). Rather, a person’s “occupation” is really all the activities that they need and want to do in their day-to-day life, which includes everything from getting dressed and eating to caring for loved ones and going to school.

At TPI, our occupational therapists use a “holistic approach” to helping people of all ages gain independence and fulfill their responsibilities, hobbies, and desires in a safe and efficient way. To do this, we look at each individual client’s unique goals, challenges, and strengths in order to develop a customized plan of care that will help them feel successful! We rely on the unique insights of clients and their caregivers to make sure that each person’s physical, emotional, social, cognitive, and/or perceptual needs are identified and addressed.

Who Can Benefit From Occupational Therapy?

People of all ages, health backgrounds, and lifestyles who are struggling with activities of daily living can benefit from occupational therapy, including seniors, adults, teens, adolescents, and toddlers.

Occupational therapists are trained in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of a wide range of cognitive, developmental, and physical conditions related to both acute and chronic illness, injury, and disease. Some specific examples of individuals who can benefit from occupational therapy include people living with:

  • Neurological conditions, including traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, and Alzheimer’s dementia
  • Musculoskeletal conditions including osteoarthritis and frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis)
  • Autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis
  • Post-surgical conditions including hip or knee joint replacement, spinal fusion, and rotator cuff surgery
  • Congenital conditions including Down syndrome and cerebral palsy
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Chronic pain
  • Learning, personality, and developmental disorders including autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and sensory processing disorder

Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, skilled nursing facilities, home health, and outpatient hospital-based or private clinics. To help each client achieve meaningful progress and improvements in function, OTs routinely collaborate with other members of the client’s health and wellness team, which may include primary care physicians, speech-language pathologists, physical therapists, teachers, dietitians, and social workers.

What Is Occupational Therapy Treatment Like?

The occupational therapy experience begins with a thorough evaluation by a licensed and board-certified occupational therapist. This evaluation provides an opportunity for the client (and his or her parent, guardian, or caregiver, when applicable) to clarify and discuss their current challenges and goals, which the OT will use to guide their assessment and create a plan of care.

This evaluation is also an important opportunity for the OT to assess and measure various elements of a person’s functional abilities, such as their memory, language, and reading skills, as well as physical skills like strength, range of motion, sensation, reflexes, coordination, and balance.

Once the initial evaluation is complete, a plan of care is developed and treatment can begin! Occupational therapy treatment sessions feature a range of services and techniques that are supported by clinical research and are always geared toward each client’s goals and favorite activities. Treatment services may include:

  • Exercises, stretches, and manual techniques to improve strength, coordination, range of motion, balance, activity tolerance, and gross and fine motor skills
  • Exercises to improve and/or compensate for deficits in attention, memory, perception, and learning
  • Therapeutic activities to improve a person’s social skills and self-regulation skills
  • Modifications within a person’s home, community, academic, or work environment—including adaptive equipment, splints, braces, and assistive devices—to improve a client’s function and safety within these environments
  • Family and caregiver training

Are You Looking for Occupational Therapy in Southwest Florida?

Whether you are an adult or the caregiver or parent of a child who could benefit from occupational therapy, we’d be honored to be a part of your wellness experience. Contact TPI today or call us at 941-758-3140 to schedule an appointment or learn more about our therapy services for adults and kids.

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