Occupational therapists focus on promoting health and wellbeing by enabling people to participate in the everyday occupations of life, such as self-care activities including showering, dressing, preparing food; productive activities such as education, work, volunteering and caring for others; and leisure/social activities, such as being part of a community group, engaging in a hobby, and being part of a friendship group. Occupational therapists play a particularly crucial role in enabling people experiencing disability to identify and implement methods that support their participation in occupations. This may include modifying an activity or an environment.
Where do occupational therapists practice?
Occupational therapists work in a wide range of public and private settings including community health centres, public and private hospitals, aged care facilities, people’s homes, education facilities, mental health settings, alcohol and drug services, private clinics and non-government organisations, correctional institutions, universities and research facilities, corporate and industrial settings, group homes, supported employment and government departments.
When should I see an occupational therapist?
There are a wide range of reasons why a person may benefit from consulting an occupational therapist. This may include accessing assistance to adjust to life after sustaining an injury, acquiring a short- or long-term illness or disability, or are in period of major life adjustment which is impacting health and wellbeing. Occupational therapists work with people with both physical and mental health illnesses and disabilities. Some key areas of activity where occupational therapists may 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; and
- 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:
- Therapeutic use of occupations, and activities, including therapeutic use of self (including one’s personality, insights, perceptions, and judgments, as part of the therapeutic process);
- 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;
- Modification of environments (e.g., home, work, school, community) and adaptation of processes, including the application of ergonomic principles;
- 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 natural contexts for assessment and intervention (i.e. home, school classrooms, work settings, community); and
- 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 regulation requirements as set out by the the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia for the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency.
For more detailed information about occupational therapy, please visit the Occupational Therapy Australia website and the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia website.
Find a practitioner
Occupational Therapy Australia has a Find an Occupational Therapist service to help you locate a practitioner, working in private practice It can be accessed here. Many occupational therapists are also listed in the National Health Services Directory.