Occupational Therapy: debunking common myths

Occupational Therapy: debunking common myths

Who holds an advanced degree and can teach you new skills to get dressed, safe techniques to step into and out of the shower, prevent falls in the home, return to work or participate in community activities? An Occupational Therapist!

Occupational Therapy jokes abound (don’t ask about us finding you a job); behind the humor is a valuable matter. Many people could benefit from receiving Occupational Therapy services and may not know it.

What is Occupational Therapy and when did it start?

Occupational Therapy began as a profession in 1917. The first Occupational Therapy services were provided to wounded soldiers in World War 1.

Occupational Therapy (OT) is a health profession with a goal to help people who have experienced debility due to illness, disease, disability or trauma, achieve independence, purpose and satisfaction in all aspects of daily living. OT’s bring meaning to life throughout the lifespan from infants to the elderly through the therapeutic use of everyday activities.

Occupational Therapy (OT) vs Physical Therapy (PT)

Occupational therapists often struggle with misidentification. Patients may benefit from OT intervention for a number of weeks, see significant improvements in their quality of life from their treatment, only to go home and tell their family that they love their “physical therapist”. Ouch!

While OT and PT typically work side by side in a rehabilitation setting, they each have specific valuable skills to help the patient achieve maximal independence to return to independent living. The main distinction is that PT focuses on physical function such as walking and OT focuses on the ability to perform activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing toileting and community participation.

Is it just about getting back to work?

Although the word “occupation” is featured in our titles, we’re not just here to help you perform the tasks necessary for your job. We focus on the “occupations of life” which includes day-to-day tasks such as self care activities, family participation, leisure activities and specific workplace skills.

Occupational Therapists work in a variety of settings including but not limited to rehabilitation hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, home health, mental health and nursing homes. Common conditions that Occupational Therapists work with are people with amputations, arthritis, autism, brain injury, trauma, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, stroke, and developmental disabilities.

Some examples of how an OT may become involved in a patient’s care are:

  • Provision of adaptive equipment such as a dressing stick or long shoe horn to enable independent dressing.
  • The teaching of strategies to improve memory, attention span and problem solving.
  • Performance of community outings to allow improved independence with getting into and out of a car and functional mobility in stores.
  • Creation of individualized therapeutic home programs to improve home safety and prevent falls.
  • Assisting a child to improve handwriting skills through the use of coordination exercises.
  • Improvement of hand function through the use of splinting or functional electrical stimulation.

Occupational therapy practitioners enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them achieve independence in activities of daily living. To learn more about the vast Occupational Therapy services at Allied Services click here. 

About the Author: Amy Frantz, MS, OTR/L, is Director of Occupational Therapy at Allied Services Rehab Hospital in Scranton. She received a Bachelors degree in Occupational Therapy from Towson University in 1985 and a Masters Degree in Health Administration from the University of Scranton in 1993. Amy has 35 years of experience in Occupational Therapy in the rehab setting, specializing in the treatment of geriatric debility, amputations, spinal cord injuries and lymphedema.