Let's Define Occupational Therapy

When you are considering a career in healthcare services and learning about the role of an occupational therapist, physical therapist and related positions, you may have wondered what the occupational therapy definition is. How do we define occupational therapy? What exactly does an occupational therapist do? These are common questions asked by aspiring therapists and students enrolled in healthcare programs, and it may be in your best interest to seek out the occupational therapy definition so that you can decide if this is the right career path for you. Learning about the key roles and responsibilities of an occupational therapist can help you determine whether you have the level of dedication and time needed to devote to this growing field and career path.


How Do We Define Occupational Therapy?

The occupational therapy definition is fairly broad in scope. In a nutshell, the role of an occupational therapist involves applying specific knowledge to help people engage in various activities and improve their quality of life. Occupational therapists work in a similar fashion as physical therapists, and are responsible for guiding and training injured and disabled individuals through various types of movements. The "occupational" in the occupational therapy definition refers to job-related tasks that the individual may need to perform. Still, an occupational therapist typically works with patients to improve their overall quality of life and ensure that they can fully participate in daily activities.

Occupational therapists follow specific protocol to ensure that they can help the individual work through the recovery process after an injury, and provide support as the patient's body and mind changes. The process typically begins with an individualized evaluation where the therapist can determine what the patient's goals are, and what physical limitations they currently have. The next step is developing a customized intervention plan so that the patient can perform various exercises that will help them manage daily tasks and activities with ease. The final stage of treatment involves a formal evaluation to determine whether the patient's goals have been met, and if any changes still need to be made with the first intervention plan.

A Definition for Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists may be hired by hospitals, clinics and private institutions to provide a wide range of services for those who are recovering from an injury or undergoing a rehabilitation program. The word "occupation" in occupational therapy refers to the daily activities and tasks that an individual performs. These include work-related tasks, such as standing, picking up heavy boxes, driving in a car, etc. but also simple activities such as sitting at a computer, sorting files, moving to a room or getting up from a chair.

The occupational therapy definition may vary slightly based on what types of specializations or advanced skills the occupational therapist has, the nature of the position the therapist has undertaken, and the types of patients the therapist works with. Some occupational therapists prefer to work only with children or the elderly, while others may choose to work with mental health patients or those who have suffered from work-related injuries. This is why it can be tricky to define occupational therapy in very simple terms. The nature of this position and the different roles that an occupational therapist may take may change and evolve as they move through their careers. When an occupational therapist specializes in a particular field, their specific occupational therapy definition will be very different from the traditional definition.