Occupational Therapy: The Basics

Occupational therapy is a burgeoning field of healthcare that works to empower people to accomplish the daily tasks that are important to them. It is often mistakenly presumed that the field works exclusively to coach people in the context of employment. In fact, “occupation” is used in its broader definition, in the sense that patients are mentally and/or physically participating in their own lives. By focusing on everyday activities that they want to accomplish, people receive not only the benefits of tasks accomplished but also the therapeutic benefits of engaging with the world around them. While a practitioner of occupational therapy might work with any number of people of various ages and abilities, here are a few common spheres in which they strive to improve the lives of others.

Working With Children

In today’s media-saturated society, there are more distractions than ever. It’s no surprise that many children report having difficulty focusing in the classroom. For children with attention-deficit disorder (ADD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the challenge can be overwhelming. Discrete, manageable goals can be the bricks of structured learning for children who might otherwise be discouraged by the broad, vague notion of “getting an education.” In another setting, children with special needs may have difficulty with sensory perception or limited motor skills. Again, occupational therapy gives kids a chance to focus on the small motions that are critical to self-care and meaningful social activity.

At the Office

Occupational therapy has a prominent place in the boardrooms and office suites of the world, helping to maximize performance, reduce the physical impacts of workspaces, and improve employee wellness. A professional can help C-level executives and other people in high-stress positions strike that elusive work/life balance by developing exercise regimens, helping to cultivate hobbies, or providing instruction on meditation. Office-wide, a therapist might assist in making a workplace more ergonomic, or develop team-building exercises that encourage communal interaction and skill development.

In the Hospital and Beyond

Another common realm where this practice can be beneficial is aiding people who have suffered limited mobility as a result of accident or illness. While a physical therapist might focus on building up a client’s own intrinsic strength to re-achieve abilities that were lost, an occupational therapist will also look to remove extrinsic impediments. This may mean re-imagining the built or natural environment around patients so they may interact more freely with the world. It might also mean introducing ailing individuals to technology that could improve their tactile function or prevent certain injuries.

“OT,” as it is often called, is a rapidly expanding field precisely because it has such broad application and benefits. If something is preventing you from achieving your goals, either internal or external, you may want to consider the benefits of consulting with a professional.

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