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Occupational therapy is a discipline that aims to promote health by enabling people to perform meaningful and purposeful activities. Occupational therapists work with individuals who suffer from a mentally, physically, developmentally, and/or emotionally disabling condition by utilizing treatments that develop, recover, or maintain clients’ activities of daily living. The therapist helps clients not only to improve their basic motor functions and reasoning abilities, but also to compensate for permanent loss of function. The goal of occupational therapy is to help clients have independent, productive, and satisfying lives.
The World Federation of Occupational Therapists provides the following definition of Occupational Therapy: “Occupational therapy is as a profession concerned with promoting health and well being through engagement in occupation.” Occupational therapists use careful analysis of physical, environmental, psychosocial, mental, spiritual, political and cultural factors to identify barriers to occupation. Occupational therapy draws from the fields of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and many other disciplines in developing its knowledge base.
Occupational therapy treatment plans are designed to improve a patient’s quality of life by giving the patient more independence. It focus on improving all aspects of life. Some OT focuses on being able to function in the workplace. Other treatment plans might focus on personal care, like being able to dress and cook for yourself, or recreational activities, like being able to use a computer.
Patients benefit from occupational therapy by learning sets of skills designed to increase independence. Being independent increases self-esteem and leads to a more fulfilling life.
In some ways, occupational therapy is similar to physical therapy (PT). OT treatment plans may include doing exercises to strengthen muscles, just like physical therapy. The difference between the two is the exercises done as a part of occupational therapy are task-orientated; in physical therapy, exercises are done for the sake of strengthening muscles.
Occupational therapy is offered in a variety of places including schools, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and hospitals.