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OT: What exactly is Occupational Therapy?

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) defines occupational therapy (OT) as “the therapeutic use of everyday life activities (occupations) with individuals or group to enhance or enable participation in roles, habits, and routines in the home, school,
workplace, community, and other settings” (AOTA, 2011). Occupation is essential to the practice of occupational therapy (OT).

What does “occupation” mean?

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Simply put, an occupation is what you do; day in and day out.

It includes activities one has to do to live, wants to do, and those he or she is expected to do.

Occupations range from basic daily living or self-care tasks to work; from play and leisure to rest and sleep.

Essentially, occupational therapy practitioners, which are occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants, use occupations to improve a person’s health, quality of life, and participation in the affected occupation(s) that are meaningful to him or her (AOTA, 2014).

Who are OT practitioners?

Occupational therapy practitioners include occupational therapists (OTs) and occupational therapy assistants (OTAs). OTs are responsible for all aspects of the delivery of OT services,
which include evaluation and treatment or intervention implementation.

In comparison, OTAs provide occupational therapy treatment services under the supervision of and in collaboration with an OT (AOTA, 2014).

While the evaluation and assessment process are largely performed by the OT, the OTA may assist with the process by collecting primary information through observation.

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Thus, an OTA can contribute to the evaluation process but not perform an evaluation independently.

 The OT and OTA may collaborate to develop a treatment plan that is guided by the results of the assessment.

Once the plan is established by the OT, OTAs provide treatment to with the consumer (Payal, 2017).

Ultimately, the OT is responsible for the
outcome and effectiveness of  therapy services (AOTA, 2014).

Where can OT practitioners work?

Occupational personnel work in a variety of settings. These include hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation centers, and schools.

In the school setting, OTs and OTAs help children with disabilities to participate in school activities to their fullest potential.

Their role involves enhancing a student’s participation in the daily occupations that occur in the school environment (AOTA, 2016).

Typical school occupations include physically managing classroom materials, handwriting, cutting, and even eating in the cafeteria.

In conclusion, “occupation” is at core of the field of occupational therapy. Occupations are the
activities that humans participate in daily.

Simply stated, occupations are the things we “do.” Occupational therapy practitioners, OTs and OTAs, are responsible for the delivery of OT services.

They utilize occupations as a means of improving a person’s health and wellbeing by increasing his or her participation in daily activities that are meaningful to him or her (AOTA, 2014).

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American Occupational Therapy Association. (2011). Definition of occupational therapy practice for the AOTA Model Practice Act. Retrieved from https://www.aota.org/-/media/Corporate/
Files/Advocacy/State/Resources/PracticeAct/Model%20Definition%20of%20OT%20Practice%20%20Adopted%2041411.pdf https://www.aota.org/

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2014). Occupational therapy practice framework:
Domain and process (3rd ed.).

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American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(Suppl. 1), S1-S48.

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2016). Fact sheet: Occupational therapy’s role
with school settings. Retrieved from https://www.aota.org/~/media/Corporate/Files/AboutOT
Payal, P. (2017).

Occupational therapy vs occupational therapy assistant. Retrieved from


About the author

Tameika is a registered and licensed occupational therapist who works for a public school system located in North Georgia. She is a Florida native and graduate of the University of Florida. In 2019 she received her post-professional doctoral degree in occupational therapy from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. Tameika aims to share useful and informative material to parents and occupational therapy stakeholders and consumers. So if you are interested in more content like this, please sign up below.

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