What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy is anything that a person does during the day to occupy their time. From simple activities of daily living: getting up and taking a shower, getting dressed, going to the bathroom to more complex instrumental activities of daily living: cooking, cleaning, and housekeeping. The role of an occupational therapists is different in every practice setting. We strive to help individuals gain the strength, mobility, balance and endurance that they need to increase independence while participating in tasks that are meaningful to the individual. We teach individuals unique adaptations to achieve personal goals and live their lives to the fullest.

What is the difference between Occupational Therapists (OT) and Certified Occupational Therapist Assistants (COTA’s)?

Occupational therapists evaluate, assess, create a plan of care and complete a discharge and all documentation required. Occupational therapists generally have a Bachelor’s, Masters or Doctorate degree. In 2007, all OT’s were required to obtain a master’s degree and in 2024 all OT’s will be required to obtain their OTD (Occupational Therapy Doctorate) degree. Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants are required to have an associate degree, but some also have a bachelor’s degree. They provide and guide daily treatment sessions and provide input to the plan of care.

What’s the difference between physical therapy and occupational therapy (OT)?

Physical therapy focuses on the body: muscles, joints, inner ear, vision and balance components needed to successfully walk and complete daily tasks. Occupational therapy focuses on the functional and individual tasks components. Example: Physical therapy will help individuals to walk or balance better when walking in the grocery store or to the bathroom. Occupational therapists will help individuals to reach for and grasp items in the store or better manage or manipulate clothing up or down after utilizing the bathroom. Both disciplines discuss safety during these tasks and may make recommendations such as: using a four wheel walker with a cart and/or using a motorized cart for energy conservation in the grocery store. For the bathroom the physical therapists may recommend practicing squats or leg exercises for improved balance and independence to get on/off the toilet. The Occupational Therapists may recommend a grab bar, toilet riser, hygiene aid or other equipment to make the task of toileting easier. Often times Physical and Occupational therapists work as a team when helping individuals to recover.

What happens in an Occupational Therapy session?

This greatly depends on what the individual finds both meaningful and challenging in their daily routine. Occupational therapists may focus on upper body exercises, ergonomic work spaces and proper lifting techniques. The occupational therapist may ask the individual to demonstrate how they complete meaningful routines: bathing, dressing, grooming, cooking, cleaning and housekeeping tasks. During this time the OT is watching for specific body mechanics and patterns. The OT can also observe the individual and provide creative ways for activity modification to either enhance success, endurance or overall engagement in the task. These modifications could be as simple as: sitting down to shower or using a sock aid or reacher to complete lower body dressing more independently. OT’s can assist in recommending medical equipment for bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchen as well as complete power wheel chair assessments. Occupational therapists can utilize visual, tactile or verbal cues to improve a mobility patterns and strengthen the individual’s muscles. The OT may also have individuals participate in visual scanning and cognitive activities to further assess an individual’s independence and safety while participating in meaningful daily tasks.

What are some areas that Occupational Therapists / Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants can specialize in?

There are multiple areas that require special training and education that a OT/COTA’s can specialize in. At CRMC we have OT/COTA’s who specialize in the following treatment modalities: Certified Hand Therapy (CHT), modalities (ultrasound, electrical stimulation, traction, biofeedback, kinesio taping and myofascial cupping), lymphedema massage, driving assessments, and fall prevention. Utilizing these techniques in addition to stretching, strengthening and other in patient, outpatient and home therapy programs can help individuals to recover at a faster rate.