I realized recently that I talk about school all the time but I haven't shared a post on what Occupational Therapy (OT) is! As you all know, I'm pursuing my Masters Degree in Occupational Science/Occupational Therapy currently. It's still a growing field as it hasn't been around for too long but it's a wonderful career.
So what is OT?
Yeah, I know. It sounds like I help you find jobs but that's actually career counseling or career coaching. The word "occupation" refers to your daily tasks which encompasses any "job" from going to work, doing the dishes, taking care of your kids, etc. Think about it. "Work" is really the exertion of force which means you are working while you read this by holding up your posture and balancing their body weight against your desk and chair. So everything is an occupation but it's meaning changes depending on the individual's interests, career, and lifestyle.
Simply put, OT is creative problem solving that enhances the quality of one's life by making them more independent, confident, and happy. There are OTs in many different fields of healthcare and depending on the population they work with, it can always look different. The main three populations are pediatrics, adult rehabilitation, and mental health but we are not limited to these populations. Some OTs attain a Doctorate degree and create their own specialized types of Occupational Therapy like Ocean Therapy. Super cool! The end goal is always client-centered therapy to help enhance the client's daily lifestyle through MEANINGFUL occupations.
I chose this career path because I wanted to be able to use my Psychology background and interest in art, well being, and working with people actively all in one profession. It combines aspects of counseling, creativity, and problem solving to find unique ways to help people achieve a better quality of life based on their limitations, difficulties, and/or illnesses. So our line of work will be perceived in various ways by other people because it involves a combination of work and play.
Unfortunately, a lot of people don't know what OT is if they or someone close to them hasn't received OT before. OTs work in hospitals, clinics, school systems, and even in the corporate world. It is not to be confused with Physical Therapy (PT) as their goal is more focused on the body's mobility and function. OT is focused on the everything between the mind, body, and soul so we are more holistic in nature. A phrase I heard can sum up the difference between a PT and OT nicely. "A PT will teach you how to walk, but an OT will teach you how to dance." With that being said, OTs and PTs work closely together in many settings to improve the health of a client together. No hate, just know how to differentiate the two fields. :)
Here are some examples of what OTs can do in different fields:
1. Help patients who suffered a stroke regain their motor functions by encompassing their daily lives (their interests, hobbies, jobs, etc).
2. Working on sensory integration or other deficits with a toddler who lacks balance or motor coordination.
3. Helping people who are recovering from a physical injury like a car accident regain their muscle strength and teaching them adaptive ways to go about their lives while they are weak.
There are SO many other places you could observe OT in action. But the main take away from this post is that we aim to enhance the quality of one's life through their lens. We all put value on different things and something that's important to one person may not be for another. What is meaningful to you (like painting or sports) may not be meaningful to others. To some, being able to walk is more meaningful than being able to put on clothes without assistance. Looking at all your abilities on this level really changes how you see your list of occupations. Therefore, our practice is goal-oriented based on the client's wishes to be able to do something again or do it better. And that's what makes our field so unique!
I hope you guys leave with a better understanding of Occupational Therapy. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment!