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What’s the ‘occupation’ in occupational therapy?

Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy (OT) is concerned with improving people’s lives through involvement in daily activities. When people think ‘occupation’, they often think ‘work’. However, to a child, occupation is playing and learning, to an adult with cerebral palsy it may be based around living independently, and to a retiree recovering after a stroke, it may be based around participating in a hobby that they love doing. The ability to perform tasks of daily living is not only important for personal freedom but is connected in to human self –esteem.

Occupational Therapists work with the client make modifications so that the client can perform the task they want or need to do. There are many factors that can hinder a person’s participation in occupation. These factors include:

  • Physical and cognitive abilities of a person.
  • The occupation and its characteristics.
  • Environmental factors such as social, cultural, attitudinal, physical and legislative.

The job of an OT is to analyse all the above factors and come up with solutions that positively enhance occupation. An OT needs to be able to blend their science based knowledge of human physiology and mental ability/psychology with a creative, solution-based approach to involving people in their ‘occupation’. The rewarding part about a career in occupational therapy is watching your client overcome different factors to participate fully in daily activities.

You can check out more examples of how an OT might work with their clients on Occupational Therapy Australia’s website at

Image: jcorrius – Flickr

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