What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy – As defined by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists

Definition 

Occupational therapy is the art and science of enabling engagement in everyday living, through occupation; of enabling people to perform the occupations that foster health and well-being; and of enabling a just and inclusive society so that all people may participate to their potential in the daily occupations of life (Townsend& Polatajko, 2007, p. 372).

Occupational therapists are highly trained health-care professionals. All entry-level university education programs for occupational therapists in Canada currently grant a Master’s level credential. Since 2008, all university education programs for occupational therapists must lead to a Master’s credential to be eligible for accreditation by CAOT.

Occupational therapists define an occupation as much more than a chosen career. Occupation refers to everything that people do during the course of everyday life.  Each of us have many occupations that are essential to our health and well-being.  Occupational therapists believe that occupations describe who you are and how you feel about yourself. A child, for example, might have occupations as a student, a playmate, a dancer and a table-setter.

Responsibilities/Activities

Occupational therapists use a systematic approach based on evidence and professional reasoning to enable individuals, groups and communities to develop the means and opportunities to identify, engage in and improve their function in the occupations of life. The process involves assessment, intervention and evaluation of the client related to occupational performance in self-care, work, study, volunteerism and leisure. Occupational therapists may assume different roles such as advising  on health risks in the workplace, safe driving for older adults, and programs to promote mental health for youth. Occupational therapists also perform functions as manager, researcher, program developer or educator in addition to the direct delivery of professional services.

Practice Settings

Occupational therapists are generally employed in community agencies, health care organizations such as hospitals, chronic care facilities, rehabilitation centres and clinics, schools; social agencies industry or are self-employed. Some occupational therapists specialize in working with a specific age group or disability such as arthritis, developmental coordination disorder, mental illness, or spinal cord injury.