Occupational therapists have very high growth job, career,
employment and income opportunities in the United
To work as an occupational therapist in the United States, you
need a license to practice. All prospective
Occupational Therapists must graduate from an accredited college
of Occupational Therapy and pass a National
Occupational therapists (OTs) help people improve
their ability to perform tasks in their daily living
and working environments. They work with individuals
who have conditions that are mentally, physically,
developmentally, or emotionally disabling. They also
help them to develop, recover, or maintain daily
living and work skills. Occupational therapists help
clients not only to improve their basic motor
functions and reasoning abilities, but also to
compensate for permanent loss of function. Their
goal is to help clients have independent,
productive, and satisfying lives.
Occupational therapists assist clients in
performing activities of all types, ranging from
using a computer to caring for daily needs such as
dressing, cooking, and eating. Physical exercises
may be used to increase strength and dexterity,
while other activities may be chosen to improve
visual acuity and the ability to discern patterns.
For example, a client with short-term memory loss
might be encouraged to make lists to aid recall, and
a person with coordination problems might be
assigned exercises to improve hand-eye coordination.
Occupational therapists also use computer programs
to help clients improve decisionmaking,
abstract-reasoning, problem-solving, and perceptual
skills, as well as memory, sequencing, and
coordination—all of which are important for
Therapists instruct those with permanent
disabilities, such as spinal cord injuries, cerebral
palsy, or muscular dystrophy, in the use of adaptive
equipment, including wheelchairs, orthotics, and
aids for eating and dressing. They also design or
make special equipment needed at home or at work.
Therapists 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.
Some occupational therapists treat individuals
whose ability to function in a work environment has
been impaired. These practitioners arrange
employment, evaluate the work environment, plan work
activities, and assess the client’s progress.
Therapists also may collaborate with the client and
the employer to modify the work environment so that
the work can be successfully completed.
Occupational therapists may work exclusively with
individuals in a particular age group or with
particular disabilities. In schools, for example,
they evaluate children’s abilities, recommend and
provide therapy, modify classroom equipment, and
help children participate as fully as possible in
school programs and activities. A therapist may work
with children individually, lead small groups in the
classroom, consult with a teacher, or serve on a
curriculum or other administrative committee. Early
intervention therapy services are provided to
infants and toddlers who have, or at the risking of
having, developmental delays. Specific therapies may
include facilitating the use of the hands, promoting
skills for listening and following directions,
fostering social play skills, or teaching dressing
and grooming skills.
Occupational therapy also is beneficial to the
elderly population. Therapists help the elderly lead
more productive, active, and independent lives
through a variety of methods, including the use of
adaptive equipment. Therapists with specialized
training in driver rehabilitation assess an
individual’s ability to drive using both clinical
and on-the-road tests. The evaluations allow the
therapist to make recommendations for adaptive
equipment, training to prolong driving independence,
and alternative transportation options. Occupational
therapists also work with the client to asses the
home for hazards and to identify environmental
factors that contribute to falls.
Occupational therapists in mental health settings
treat individuals who are mentally ill, mentally
retarded, or emotionally disturbed. To treat these
problems, therapists choose activities that help
people learn to engage in and cope with daily life.
Activities include time management skills,
budgeting, shopping, homemaking, and the use of
public transportation. Occupational therapists also
may work with individuals who are dealing with
alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, eating
disorders, or stress-related disorders.
Assessing and recording a client’s activities and
progress is an important part of an occupational
therapist’s job. Accurate records are essential for
evaluating clients, for billing, and for reporting
to physicians and other health care providers.