Occupational Therapy Enables - What is it?

July 21 2015

What is Occupational Therapy (OT) and what do Occupational Therapists (OTs) do? This is often a very foreign or confusing pairing of words. The word occupation sparks connections to work and employment. As a current student occupational therapist studying in Canada, I want to share with you my passion and explain a little about what makes this profession unique. A comparison I make is family doctors are the generalists in medicine whereas OTs are the generalists of rehabilitation.

OTs are an allied health professional using an evidence based framework to guide rehabilitation interventions. OTs help people get back to their meaningful daily activities, activities that often give us a sense of identity and purpose. OTs work with a variety of individuals from infants, children, adolescents, adults, to older adults. They use a holistic perspective analyzing the match between the person, environment, and occupation - from this, they can provide recommendations to maximize functional ability.

They can be seen working with individuals having challenges with personal care (e.g. dressing, feeding, bathing), productivity (e.g. engage in play during childhood, participate in school activities, able to perform tasks at work), and leisure (e.g. fabricating a customized hand orthotic to enable piano playing after degenerative changes from arthritis). OTs can be seen working in a plethora of settings from school systems, intensive care units, hand therapy, falls prevention, low vision technology services, addictions, mental health, ergonomics or consulting- just to name a few! During my previous placements/internships, I had the privilege to help individuals transition home from the hospital after extensive physical injuries and help reintegrate individuals living with mental illness back into their community. I also worked with individuals adapting to physical changes and challenges after stroke, such as troubleshoot how to eat using adaptive utensils or put on a shirt when one arm is paralyzed.

It truly is an amazing profession to be a part of especially when individuals express "I can write again... I can feed myself ... I can take a shower independently... I feel confident to return to school... I have more strength and coordination now..."

I truly love my profession. I love how I can help enable all sorts of occupations. I love the breadth of areas I could work in. I love how I can be creative coming up with client-centerd solutions. I love this uniqueness of occupational therapy.

To finish off, I want to leave you with a quote: Occupational therapy practitioners ask, "what matters to you" not, "what's the matter with you?" -- President of the American Occupational Therapy Association

I hope I did justice to describing the OT profession. I would love to hear from you if you have any questions, are aspiring to be an OT or is an OT colleague! I can be reached at [email protected].


Teresa C.
[email protected]
Toronto, Canada

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