Occupational Therapist

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Occupational therapist

Occupational therapist


Occupational therapy is the art and science of helping people do the day-to-day activities that are important to them despite impairment, disability, or handicap (Willard & Spackard's Occupational Therapy: Ninth Edition, 5). The main goal of an occupational therapist is to maximize the patient's independent functioning. The areas of functioning which may need improvement are determined by the patient and the therapist together. Occupational therapist use purposeful activities as their treatment methods and goals. Occupational therapy treatments are not limited to areas of work or job training. One's occupation in life is more than just their job.(Neistadt,1998)


Occupational therapists organize treatments into three different categories or performance areas: Activities of Daily Living, Work and Productive Activities, and Play and Leisure Activities. Activities of daily living include such things as dressing, cooking, bathing and hygiene (brushing/washing hair, brushing teeth, etc.) shopping, paying bills, and so on. Work and productive activities are naturally important for people. Play and leisure are important in both a child's and an adult's life. Adult's need leisure or play for a healthy well balanced lifestyle while play is the vehicle in which a child develops both mentally and physically.(Flynn,2004)

The World Health Organization is responsible for the definition of impairment, disability, and handicap (www.aota.org). Impairment is defined as "A loss or abnormality of physical or psychological structures or functions." Only when impairment is severe enough to impair an individual's ability to perform daily living, work, and leisure activity does it become a disability. An example of a person with a disability is someone who can't put on his or her pants due to a fractured hip (impairment) (Robin Flynn OTR/L). This hip fracture prevents the individual from bending over at the hip joint to place their legs inside the pant legs. A person with a disability such as the previous example becomes handicapped when he/she cannot "complete the activities that fulfill the essential responsibilities and duties of a social role." Someone who becomes handicapped may be victimized by inadequate access to health care or inaccessible environments. Occupational therapists help people by improving their environments or providing education and training as to how to perform various tasks despite their disabilities.(Angelo,1996)

         The two largest practice areas of Occupational Therapy are physical disabilities and psychological impairments (www.aota.com). Physical disabilities include injuries and illnesses. Common physical disability patients in an occupational therapy setting may include soldiers, people involved in car accidents, stroke patients or children with physical challenges. For example, a person who may receive occupational therapy for a physical disability may perhaps be a soldier returning from war who has lost an arm or leg. An occupational therapist would work with the individual to make ordinary tasks like getting in and out of the shower, getting dressed, and making food easier. Psychological impairments involve mental retardation, anorexia, and depression (www.maot.com). Occupational therapist in this setting would help the individual learn skills to function and cope with their psychological impairments. Often a patient will have symptoms of both physical and ...
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