What do Occupational Therapists do?

If you’re looking at occupational therapy jobs, or considering training as an Occupational Therapist, it can give some useful clarity to have a look at a breakdown of exactly what an occupational therapist can do. The job is a complex one, covering a lot of different disciplines, working patients for a lot of backgrounds, so having a look at the broad spread can help you decide to focus on what will be most rewarding to you.


The main priority for Occupational Therapists is to give the patients they work with as much independence as possible. This means that OTs need to be creative problem solvers: working with a patient to find solutions that work for them, rather than blindly applying procedure.

With that in mind, it’s worth thinking about the people you find it most rewarding to build a rapport with, whether that’s children, the elderly, long term hospital patients or people managing at home. Consider your own experience, whether in your training or in your family background. While you should of course be ready to help anyone, finding a rewarding job means making an effort to connect personally to what you’re doing.

Techniques and Devices

One of the main ways an OT can help someone is by talking with them to find the points in their life that have been difficult by their condition – whether that condition is temporary and will improve with rehabilitation or is progressive, with management but no cure possible.

After identifying the problem areas, an OT can either recommend new techniques that will allow the patient to complete the task in a new way, within their capabilities, or help to select and fit devices in their home that will help them live without the need for help.

As an example, someone with difficulties lifting could learn new techniques where they break down the amount they have to lift into smaller quantities and complete household tasks over time – making, for example, carrying shopping into the house more achievable for them.

On the other hand, an OT may have bars fitted in the patient’s bathroom to give them extra support as they lift themselves in and out of the bath and shower, giving them more independence in a vital and personal part of their lives.

While in practice a mix of the two techniques are used, focusing on one of the other can help to give you a focus in how you specialise and who you help.

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