What do Occupational Therapists actually do?
We work with Occupational Therapists (OTs) every day, but we know that plenty of people don’t fully understand what an OT does. They often get rounded up with physiotherapists and nurses, but this simply isn’t the case. OTs carry out marvellous work, so let’s explore what is it they actually do.
What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy is a service provided by trained medical professionals to adults and child who are living with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, and/or mental health issues. Occupational therapy is the practice of enabling someone to recover and overcome obstacles that prevent them from living fulfilling and independent lives.
The word ‘occupational’ may lead you to believe that this only really applies to things regarding the person’s workplace and profession, however it applies more widely to the individual’s everyday life when it comes to occupational therapy. Occupational therapy can be carried out at any stage in life; from early childhood, right through to palliative care.
Where do OTs work?
OTs can work in a variety of environments to provide their support and services. Many are employed in the public sector with the NHS or social services or the local council, and you may have an OT assigned to you if your doctor thinks you need it. They can make home visits or work in a hospital.
There are also a lot of independent OTs who work for private clients. Private OTs may work for a company but can also be self-employed. Again, you’re usually referred to a private OT if it’s felt that you require their service. You might get in touch with an independent OT through a case manager or solicitor.
What does an OT do?
Occupational therapists are there to assess a person’s physical, mental, and social needs, and then suggest changes that will help that person overcome the things that are stopping them from living as comfortably and independently as possible.
One of the key things an OT looks at is the person’s environment. This means looking at where their client lives, works and spends most of their time. If the individual’s environment is not suitable or does not meet their physical and cognitive requirements, then the OT will prescribe changes to be made that will help to promote recovery and independence for the client.
The OT will also take a look at any equipment needs the person may have and specify items that will help them achieve a better quality of life. For example, we work with OTs whose clients need made-to-measure seating, specialist baths and toilets, and custom-built wheelchairs. All of these items can really help to make the difference and provide a more comfortable, independent way of life, and it’s up to the OT to decide what is needed.
OTs will periodically come back and re-evaluate the person’s needs; they will assess any changes that may have occurred as a result of their actions and will again prescribe the right things going forward. They might end up switching the equipment that they had previously specified because the client’s needs may have changed. OTs continue this until the individual has found the best configuration for their needs, which in turn enables them to live as happily, comfortably, and independently as possible.