occupational therapy

In occupational therapy, occupations refer to the everyday activities that people do as individuals, in families and with communities to occupy time and bring meaning and purpose to life. Occupations include things people need to, want to and are expected to do.

Definition “Occupation”

Treatment fields of Occupational therapy

Occupational Therapy is a healthcare profession whose goal is to help people to achieve independence, meaning and satisfaction in all aspect of their lives. Occupational Therapists use a holistic approach to assess and retrain skills to enhance a person’s ability to participate and perform activities of daily living (ADLs) with in their home environment and community.

OT provides services to people whose ability to function in daily life, has been disrupted. In terms of occupational therapy, the word occupation refers to not only a person’s job, but to any activities that a person completes in his/her daily life. This includes all activities from getting up and brushing one’s teeth in the morning to cooking meals, using a computer, or in the case of children, playing and going to school. All illnesses, physical and psychiatric, disabilities and injuries, have the potential to interfere with a person’s ability to complete his/her daily activities. Occupational therapists use purposeful activities, therapeutic exercises, special equipment, skills training and environmental modifications to maximize a person’s ability to attain independence in these everyday living tasks.

Neuro and Musculo-Skeletal

OTs work with adults across the areas of neurology (e.g. Stroke, Head Injury, Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS), Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), Parkinson’s disease, Motor Neuron Disease (MND), Transvers myelitis), orthopedics (e.g. total hip replacements, Ankylosing spondylitis and Arthritis), Sensory impairments (e.g. vision) and Cardiology (e.g. Heart attacks). OTs provide a variety of services to maximize a client’s level of independence, including:

Hand Skill Training

  • Assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of skills in self-care, home duties and leisure
  • Physical rehabilitation to improve co-ordination, strength and movement
  • Cognitive (thinking, memory) and perceptual assessment and retraining
  • Home assessment and advice about modifications and adaptive equipment
  • Work rehabilitation and energy conservation (e.g. graded return to work programs)


OTs work with children of all ages from neonates to adolescents (e.g. Cerebral palsy, Autism, Attention deficit hyper activity (ADHD), Behavioral problems, Global delay, Down’s syndrome, Learning disabilities, Hydrocephalus, Microcephalus, Muscular dystrophy, Spina bifida, Erb’s palsy, Flat feet, Congenital hip dislocation, juvenile Rheumatoid arthritis, Rett’s syndrome , Poliomyelitis etc.). Intervention often involves:

  • Evaluation of developmental skills and how these relate to home, school and play
  • Purposeful activities aimed at improving muscle strength motor planning and co-ordination balance, sensory awareness and participation in daily activities.
  • Sensory integration programs
  • Play therapy, communication, social skills, cognitive and perceptual-motor skills training
  • Home programs, parent’s education and support
  • Equipment and adaptive aids prescription

Hand Therapy

Hand therapy, a special practice area of occupational therapists treating orthopedic based upper extremity conditions of hands and arms such as fracture, burn, dislocations, subluxations, frozen shoulder, arthritis and rheumatoid disease, ligament injury, tendon disorders (e. g. tendonitis, De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, trigger finger, tennis elbow), nerve disorder (e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome) etc. Interventions include:

  • Assessment of upper extremity and function with appropriate treatment planning
  • Hand and upper limb orthosis design, fabrication, fitting, and training (e.g. splint)
  • Pain and scar management, Sensory re- education
  • Therapeutic activities and therapeutic exercise
  • Training in activities of daily living and adaptive or assistive devices.

Mental Health

OT’s provide mental health treatment and prevention services for children, youth, the aging and those with severe mental illness conditions. Conditions are:  schizophrenia, mood disorders, dementia, stress disorders, anxiety disorders and other emotional difficulties. OT’s aim to help people:

  • To develop skills to live more independently in community
  • To develop cognitive skills
  • To develop coping skills
  • To improve social and interpersonal skills
  • To develop interests and return to work
  • Psychosocial rehabilitation

Care of elderly

Occupational therapists work with elder people when they are affected by any illness or age-related changes including problem with balance, co-ordination, endurance, cognitive problems and sensory impairments. OT interventions include:

  • Assessment of person’s strength and limitations
  • Evaluation of the degree of assistance required and cage-giver training
  • Provision of practical skills training and independence aids
  • Home and activity modification

Inclusive Schools

OTs advocate for children with disabilities who attend inclusive schools and provide individual therapy and group based therapy. OTs aim to:

  • Improve the functional performance within the school and home environment
  • Individualized Education Plan (IEP) preparation for the children with special needs
  • Training on ADLs, social skills, hand skills
  • Sensory integration and behavior modifications
  • Provide assistive device and modify tasks
  • Teachers and parents training
  • Vocational Assessment
  • School accessibility

Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR)

Occupational therapists work as a program leader in CBR programs to facilitating and develop program and passing on knowledge and skills to the community members (people with disability). OT’s aim to:

  • Provision of basic rehabilitation skills and create positive attitudes in the community for people with disability
  • Provision of therapy when needed in preparation for participation (basic rehabilitation exercise; assistive technology, wheelchairs, aids and skills to interact, self-esteem building, teach basic skills for advocacy)
  • Facilitation of program implementation, establish program development at both the government and community levels.


The role of occupational therapy in ergonomics is to enable and optimize function in daily living activities in both the home and work environment. Interventions in ergonomics include:

  • Work-site assessments, Musculoskeletal risk assessments (e.g. neck, shoulder or back injury), or identify hazards that may contribute to on-the-job injury, and use ergonomics strategies to determine how it can be eliminated.
  • Modification of job tasks and the work environment to promote function,
  • Health promotion programs including stress management and injury prevention programs.
  • Workplace safety assessment and provide suggestions regarding accessibility in all kinds of buildings and public places (e.g. ramps, lifts etc.)