People who have an interest in helping others learn to perform the activities of everyday living will be excited to discover what occupational therapists do. These well-trained professionals provide essential treatment to people who are disabled, injured, ill or otherwise have difficulty performing daily activities.

Related resource: Top 40 Most Affordable Master’s in Occupational Therapy

What Is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is a form of medical treatment that helps people who have an injury, sickness or disability that makes it difficult for them to perform typical activities at home, work or school. Through occupational therapy, individuals can adapt to whatever their particular limitations may be so that they can do things like complete household chores, bathe and dress or participate in common activities. Through the use of assistive devices and alternative means of completing ordinary tasks, occupational therapy helps people to lead more independent lives.

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

When they begin working with a patient, occupational therapists ask numerous questions of the patient regarding the activities that are difficult to perform. Additionally, they conduct a review of the patient’s medical history, and it’s typical to observe the patient as they perform certain tasks. From this, the therapist is able to evaluate the needs and treatment that the patient requires. This involves identifying goals for each patient and planning the activities that will be used to prepare the patient to meet these goals.

Occupational therapists demonstrate exercises for their patients. These exercises may be designed to reduce pain, increase range of motion, improve balance and coordination or sharpen motor skills. Frequently, the occupational therapist works with the patient’s family, employer, colleagues, and caregivers so that these individuals understand how they can accommodate the patient’s needs. Therapists also may visit the home or workplace of the patient to evaluate how these spaces can be adapted to serve the patient.

The specialist may recommend assistive devices and train the patient in their use. Evaluations of the patient’s progress are made throughout the process. Similarly, occupational therapists may work with patients who have mental or emotional disabilities. This may mean that they help with things like budgeting, time management, household chores and using public transportation to help the patients develop coping skills.

How to Become an Occupational Therapist

Most people earn a master’s degree to become an occupational therapist. The best way to obtain this credential is through a degree program that’s accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. Applicants for these programs are required to hold a bachelor’s degree with coursework in subjects like physiology and biology. Depending upon the program, applicants may be required to demonstrate volunteer experience in an occupational therapy setting.

Two to three years of full-time study typically are required to complete a master’s degree. These programs require a minimum number of weeks of fieldwork, which is closely supervised. Completion of a program prepares individuals to pass the required examination of the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

Occupational therapists work in a rewarding field that enables them to improve the lives of their patients. Although a long academic period is required to enter the workplace, most therapists consider it a worthwhile experience. With an understanding of what an occupational therapist does, it’s possible for people to determine if this is the career path for them.