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​The Role of an Occupational Therapist

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Occupational therapists (OT) works with individuals of all ages to encourage and enable effective participation in the occupations of everyday life. Occupational therapists work with people who experience difficulties in these areas for any reason and are present in both physical disability and mental health services. Occupational therapists also aim to facilitate successful adoptions of disruptions in lifestyle, prevent losses of function and improve or maintain phycological status.

The occupations of everyday life include:

  • Activities of daily living: Self-care activities such as showering, dressing, grooming and eating
  • Household and community functioning: Home maintenance, driving, budgeting, shopping and community mobility
  • Education: Activities which allow a person to participate effectively in a learning environment
  • Leisure and play
  • Social participation: Interacting positively with others in the community
  • Work (paid and unpaid): Participating in employment and volunteer activities

    Occupational therapists are also able to assess and recommend assistive technology or environmental modifications that will assist individuals in engaging in the occupations of everyday life.

    Occupational therapists are also able to assess and recommend assistive technology or environmental modifications that will assist individuals in engaging in the occupations of everyday life. In these cases they will work closely with specialist mobility equipment suppliers to ensure their client receives equipment that best suits their needs

    Where do occupational therapists practice?

    Occupational therapists practice in a wide range of both public and private settings. Including community health centres, aged care facilities, education facilities, both public and private hospitals, mental health settings, private clinics and non-government, peoples home, alcohol and drugs services, universities, everywhere.

    When should I see an occupational therapist?

    There are many reasons why an individual could benefit from consulting an occupational therapist. This might include accessing assistance to adjust to life after acquiring a short- or long-term illness or disability, sustaining an injury, or are in a period of major life adjustment which is impacting the individual’s health and wellbeing. An occupational therapist works with individuals with both physical and mental health illnesses and disabilities. Some key areas of practices and activity where an occupational therapist could provide support include.

    • Daily living activities such as showering, dressing, grooming, eating;
    • Multi-step activities that may involve caring for others such as household management activities, shopping, childcare, budgeting, banking, financial management, home maintenance, driving;
    • Education activities which allow a person to participate as a learner in a learning environment;
    • Leisure and play activities;
    • Social participation;
    • Work (paid and unpaid).

    What services do occupational therapists provide?

    Occupational therapists offer a broad range of services to individuals and groups, or they can provide assistance at a more strategic level. Their support may include:

    • Skill development in self-care, self-management, home management, and community/work/school reintegration;
    • Education and support of individuals, including family members, caregivers, and others, through collaborative and consultative partnerships and family-centred approaches;
    • Care coordination, case management, transition services including discharge planning, client advocacy and onward referral to relevant services;
    • Assessment, customisation and oversight of equipment provision including orthotic devices, and training in the use of prosthetic devices;
    • Driver rehabilitation and community mobility;
    • Use of a range of specific therapeutic procedures to enhance performance such as wound care management, techniques to enhance sensory, perceptual, and cognitive processing, and manual therapy technique skills.

    How are occupational therapists qualified?

    In order to practise, occupational therapists must meet the following requirements:

    • Complete a recognised undergraduate or masters entry-level course in occupational therapy;
    • Complete a minimum of 30 hours per year of continuing professional development; and
    • Meet national regulatory requirements as set out by the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia for the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency.

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