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Occupational Therapy

What is occupational therapy?

The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate to the best of their ability in all the activities of their everyday life.

Occupational therapists are unique in that they look at the whole picture - the individual's abilities, the task to be performed and the environment in which the task takes place.

(Adapted from Occupational Therapy Australia and AOTA)

Why do people need occupational therapy?

The person who needs occupational therapy could be your father or mother facing changes because of aging.

It could be your child, frustrated with being unable to do the seemingly simple things the other children at school can do.

It could be you or your spouse coping with illness or the results of an accident.

It could be anyone who, for whatever reason, can't do the things in life they want or need to do.

How do occupational therapists work?

Occupational therapists help people perform the meaningful activities of daily life (self-care skills, education, work and/or social interaction).  They particularly work to enable and enhance participation for those with impairments or limitations in physical or mental functioning.

They may help you enhance your ability to engage in your chosen activities or occupation.  They may help to modify your occupation, activity or the environment. 

Their focus will always be to better support your ability to engage in all aspects of your life.

(Source AOTA)

Who do occupational therapists work with?

An occupational therapist’s workload might include:

Working with children:

  • Helping children achieve their developmental milestones such as fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination
  • Educating and involving parents, carers and others to facilitate the normal development and learning of children

Rehabilitation and aged care:

  • Helping clients regain or enhance their daily lives after specific events such as hip replacement or stroke
  • Assessing and modifying clients’ homes and community environments to improve their safety and independence
  • Prescribing and educating clients and carers in the use of adaptive equipment to assist function

Acute care:

  • Specialist interventions in various health conditions including surgery, burns, HIV and acute mental health
  • Assessing clients’ cognition, function and psychosocial needs
  • Monitoring clients’ function and progress, prescribing adaptive equipment to ensure safety upon discharge from hospitals

Injury management:

  • Using specialised assessments to determine the functional requirements of various jobs and clients’ capacity to return to work
  • Designing and coordinating graded return to work programs
  • Educating clients in safe work practices
  • Modifying the work environment to suit the needs of individuals so as to prevent or minimise injuries

Mental health:

  • Designing individual and group programs and activities to enhance clients’ independence in everyday activities
  • Developing coping strategies for clients in overcoming their mental health issues
  • Improving clients’ confidence and self-esteem in social situations

(Adapted from Occupational Therapy Australia)

Where do occupational therapists work?

Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings, including:

  • kindergartens, primary and secondary schools
  • nursing homes
  • hospitals
  • universities
  • rehabilitation services
  • mental health services
  • community health centres
  • private practice
  • specialist services for those with complex needs, arising from accidents, illness or disorders including autism, cerebral palsy and intellectual disability.

Occupational therapists are skilled professionals. Their degree-level training includes the study of human growth and development, with specific emphasis on the social, emotional and physical effects of illness and injury.

Finding an occupational therapist

To find an occupational therapist, visit Occupational Therapy Australia

OT Australia is the peak association for OTs


Stages of Treatment  -

Developmental Occupational Therapy, Western Australia as developed a range of helpful handouts

Therapy Choices is a website set up by OT Australia to prepare people for the National Disability Insurance Scheme

“Because of Occupational Therapy” -  explaining what occupational therapy is and how it can help you (youtube resource) -