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What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is based on doing, or occupation. Occupational therapy involves enabling individuals and groups to do the things that they need and want to do in everyday life. Occupations are tasks and activities that people do. Doing is only possible when there is a person (to do the task), a task, and the environment in which the task takes place. Occupational therapists intervene with:

  • The individual person - improving or maintaining a person’s level of physical, cognitive (thinking), affective (emotional) and social ability.
  • The environment - manipulating or adapting the physical, social, cultural and institutional environment.
  • The task - analysing the task, comparing the demands of the task with the individual's abilities, and changing the task to make it possible for the person to do.

Occupational therapists are based in a variety of clinical and community settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation units, schools, community health centres and people's homes. Some examples of what occupational therapists do include:

  • Enable people to regain independence after a brain injury.
  • Improve the play and movement skills of a baby or child with a disability.
  • Assist people with dementia to adapt to cognitive decline in their daily function.
  • Review people’s work environment and assist them to modify their work environment to better suit their physical and psycho-social needs.
  • Help people select and use assistive technology that will optimise their independence in activities of daily living.
  • Assess the driving ability of someone with a disability.
  • Assist people who have learning difficulties to develop independent living-skills.
  • Work with builders, architects and local authorities to design public places and homes that accommodate people with different abilities.
  • Assist people who have mental health difficulties to engage with their community and in daily activities that are meaningful to them.

Career Opportunities

The course is World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) approved which means the qualification is recognised worldwide, although some countries/healthcare systems require a therapist to sit an exam for local registration. There are also significant opportunities for further study and the development of specialist skills in the fields of physical rehabilitation, psychiatric rehabilitation, neuro-cognitive rehabilitation, hand therapy, and health services.


Last updated 3 May 2017 Occupational Therapy (Email).