What is an Occupational Therapist?

OT Dept A healthcare professional who works with people of all ages who, because of illness, injury, or developmental or psychological impairment, need specialized assistance in learning skills to lead independent, productive, and satisfying lives.

Professional Designation:

OTR - Occupational Therapist Registered

Professional Organization:

AOTA - American Occupational Therapy Association


What Does An Occupational Therapist Do?

OT Dept

  • Helps people improve their ability to perform tasks in their daily living and working environments
  • Helps clients improve basic motor functions and reasoning abilities
  • Helps clients compensate for permanent loss of function
  • Prevents injury or the worsening of existing conditions or disabilities
  • Promotes independent functioning in individuals who may otherwise require institutionalization or other long-term care


In What Ways Can an OT Help Clients?

  • Assists clients in performing activities of all types, ranging from using a computer to caring for daily needs such as dressing, cooking, and eating
  • Instructs in the use of adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs, splints, and aids for eating and dressing
  • Designs or makes special equipment needed at home or at work
  • Increases strength and dexterity through the use of physical exercises
  • Uses various exercises to aid in recall, hand-eye coordination, visual acuity, and decision making
  • Chooses activities to help people learn to cope with daily life, such as time management, use of public transportation, etc.
  • Learn to help clients function who have these health and rehabilitation challenges:
    • stroke
    • alcoholism
    • spinal cord injuries
    • eating disorders
    • cancer
    • depression
    • developmental problems
    • short-term memory loss
    • congenital conditions
    • drug abuse
    • mental illness
    • mental retardation
    • cerebral palsy
    • stress related disorders
    • muscular dystrophy


Where Does an Occupational Therapist Work?

OT Dept

  • Hospitals, including rehabilitation and psychiatric hospitals
  • Offices and clinics of occupational therapists and other health practitioners
  • School systems
  • Home health agencies
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Community mental health centers
  • Adult daycare programs
  • Job training services
  • Residential care facilities
  • Self-employed in private practice


Job Outlook

Expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations from 2010-2020 due to the following:

  • growth in the number of individuals with disabilities or limited function requiring therapy services
  • baby-boomers entering older adulthood, when the possibility of heart attack and stroke increases
  • rapidly growing population of those 75 years of age and older
  • medical advances that enable more patients to survive critical health problems
  • hospitals will continue to need OT's to serve acutely ill patients as well as those requiring outpatient rehabilitation
  • expansion of school-age population and extended services for disabled students
  • Click on the Occupational Outlook Handbook for more details