Updated: Dec 7, 2020

What the heck is Occupational Therapy and what does an Occupational Therapist do?

Occupational therapy is the promotion of the physical and mental health and well-being of individuals, families, communities, and organizations through the enablement of meaningful occupation. Occupations, often mistaken for paid work, are all of the activities of daily living we do to occupy our time, including the areas of self care, productivity and leisure.

Occupational Therapists (OTs for short) look at the interactions between:

  • Personal factors, including values, roles, habits, routines, spirituality, cognition, emotions and functional performance.

  • Meaningful occupations, pertaining to self care, productivity and leisure.

  • The social, cultural, physical and institutional environments each individual operates in.

OTs enable clients to enhance their overall health and well-being, and foster independence with activities of daily living that are meaningful through a combination of coaching, advocating, collaborating, educating, engaging, designing and adapting. OTs look beyond each individual's functional limitations to their values, goals, interests, roles, habits and routines. This holistic, client centered approach allows OTs to better understand each individual, which in turn helps to guide treatment and ensure it is a success.

Where do Occupational Therapists work?

OTs work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, insurance companies, halfway homes, group homes, mental health facilities, individual homes, long term care facilities, correctional institutions and outpatient clinics, among other places.

Who do Occupational Therapists help?

OTs work with anyone who requires assistance participating in meaningful occupations, including but not limited to dressing, grooming, bathing, eating, transferring, grasping, reaching, writing, creating, cooking, shopping, cleaning, paying bills, managing medications, communicating, learning, socializing, lifting, working, playing, accessing, mobilizing, and driving. They work with people of all ages (babies to the elderly) with both physical and mental health concerns impacting their ability to participate in meaningful activities of daily living. This includes everything from helping someone overcome their anxiety to ride the bus to fitting someone who has lost their ability to walk with a specialized wheelchair. There really are no limits on what an OT can help with.

Although the area of health promotion is not one of the more traditional areas OTs work in, it is gradually becoming more popular as it really is the perfect framework to enable individuals to make permanent healthy lifestyle changes in all aspects of their lives.

For more information on Occupational Therapy please visit the following sites:

BC society for Occupational Therapists: www.bcsot.ca

Canadian Association of Occupational Therapy: www.caot.ca


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