Occupational therapists (OTs) help people who have conditions that are mentally, physically, developmentally, or emotionally disabling improve their ability to perform tasks in their daily living and working environments. They also help them develop, recover, or maintain daily living and work skills. Basically, OTs deliver treatment that is focused on helping people to achieve independence in all areas of their lives.
OTs work in a variety of healthcare and educational organizations, including: home health care services; nursing care facilities; offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists; general medical and surgical hospitals; and elementary and secondary schools.
On a typical day an occupational therapist might:
- assist clients in performing activities of all types;
- use physical exercises to help patients increase strength and dexterity;
- use activities to help patients improve visual acuity and the ability to discern patterns;
- use computer programs to help clients improve decision-making, abstract-reasoning, problem-solving, memory, sequencing, coordination, and perceptual skills;
- design or make special equipment needed at home or at work;
- develop computer-aided adaptive equipment and teach clients with severe limitations how to use that equipment in order to communicate better and control various aspects of their environment.
An occupational therapy assistant is a graduate of an accredited occupational therapy assistant educational program and is eligible to sit for the national certification examination. Most states regulate occupational therapy assistants. Occupational therapy aides provide supportive services to the occupational therapist or occupational therapy assistant. Occupational therapy aides usually receive their training on the job and are not eligible for certification or licensure. Occupational therapy aide programs are not accredited by ACOTE and certification of aides is not required.
Exposure to the Field, Shadowing, and Volunteering
It is suggested that you contact local facilities that employ occupational therapists and/or occupational therapy assistants (e.g., hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, or school systems). You can find these phone numbers in the Yellow Pages under Occupational Therapy or Rehabilitation. These requests are made quite frequently and you will find most facilities accommodating. Be prepared to discuss your reason for the request and your availability.