”Occupation is not (only) what you have to do but what you like to do, too.
It really changed my whole perspective on using PT and OT
and not self judging my need for those disciplines.”
M. - Engage Therapy client
When I started out my career in occupational therapy 20 years ago, I remember the reaction of many of the patients who were referred for OT services at the hospital where I worked.
“Occupational therapy? But I’m retired … I don’t need a job!”
“Occupational therapy? Why do I need that? I just want to walk better. Let me talk to the physical therapist.”
“Occupational therapy? What do you do?”
After faithfully reciting the explanation I had learned in OT school and getting a few blank stares, I boiled my answer down to this:
“An occupation is any meaningful activity that occupies your time — everything that you need and want to do in your day and in your life. Occupation therapy helps you do all of the things that are important to you.”
Not exactly a textbook answer but good enough to get doubtful patients to work with me.
(*click here if you want to read a better definition of OT from The American Occupational Therapy Association)
Now, 20 years later, when people ask me about occupational therapy, it is hard to hold back my enthusiasm when I answer! I love to describe why OT is unique in the way that it empowers people of all ages to improve everyday function and live fuller lives.
Let me name just a few:
OT is all about YOU.
An occupational therapist will work to understand your life priorities — and the strengths and barriers that impact your performance and satisfaction in doing everyday activities.
OT looks at the whole picture.
Occupational therapy recognizes that doing even the simplest daily activities easily requires complex physical, cognitive, perceptual and emotional abilities within the right environment and with the right tools. (For example, how easy would it be to put on a pair of socks without thumbs, blindfolded, on a moving train while reciting the alphabet backwards with an Army drill sergeant yelling at you to hurry up? A ridiculous example, I know. But, you get the idea.) An OT is trained to understand how your specific abilities and environments support or get in the way of doing what you want and need to do.
OT focuses on practical solutions.
Occupational therapists are experts in suggesting adaptive equipment or home modifications that can make doing everyday activities easier, faster and less frustrating.
OT teaches you skills.
An OT can help you to look more closely at your habits and tried-and-true ways of doing things to understand how they might be holding you back from functioning at your best. OTs help you to think “out of the box” when it comes to doing things more easily, efficiently and with less frustration.
OT is about your life.
Above all, occupational therapy is about making the connection between who YOU are, what you DO, and improving your well-being and health by supporting you to do the things that you need, want, and ENJOY doing in life.
April is OT month! So, for the rest of the month our Engage blog will focus on how OT can empower everyday living. Stay tuned for our posts on:
Tools for Self Care
Tips for Handwriting
Strategies for Fall Prevention
Research Review: OT for Parkinson’s Disease