Occupational Therapy

eGuide > Occupational Therapy

In this profession, “occupation” refers to more than just jobs or work, but includes the ways in which we “occupy” ourselves in the course of living a purposeful and meaningful life. It is the goal-directed use of time, interests, energy and attention. Occupational Therapy (OT) incorporates goal-directed activities that are purposeful and meaningful to a person to help them develop or regain skills necessary for play, work, self and home care. It may also include adaptation of a task or the environment to facilitate an individual’s maximum independence and enhance quality of life.

Occupational Therapy interventions are designed to promote health, to prevent injury or disability and to develop, improve, sustain or restore the highest possible level of independence of an individual in spite of any impairment they may have. Occupational Therapists are an important part of the health care team and work with medical and educational personnel to assist those who suffer from injury, illness, cognitive impairment, psychosocial dysfunction, mental illness, development and/or learning disabilities and other disorders or limiting conditions. The role of an Occupational Therapist may include performing assessments by means of skilled observation and evaluation through the administration of standardized or non-standardized tests and measurements, direct services, and consultation, being a manager, educator or participating in research.


  • OT incorporates the whole person in its approach to intervention. It addresses the individual’s wants, needs and desires in relationship to his or her environment, interests and life circumstances.
  • Because OTs are uniquely positioned to treat a very diverse mix of clients, the profession can accommodate may different personalities and interests amongst its practitioners.
  • It is an expense that is traditionally covered by Medicaid and other insurance policies.


  • OT is generally not well understood by the medical profession or the public and is often confused with Physical Therapy.
  • OT provided in the school setting is often limited in its ability to service children to the degree necessary and may best be supplemented by private OT services.
  • Insurance benefits are often limited to only a few visits and documented progress must be made in order to receive these benefits.

Practitioner Qualifications

A minimum of a Master of Science degree is required. A PhD in Educational and Human Resource Studies with an emphasis in Occupational Therapy may also be pursued. Level I fieldwork is begun early in the first year of the professional program. The OT intern is expected to have entry-level competence upon the successful completion of a Level II fieldwork experience (6 months) which follows the academic professional program. The student is then eligible to sit for the National Board of Certification of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) Examination. Passing of this exam is required to practice and be certified as a registered occupational therapist (OTR). Many states require licensure which is usually based on the results of this exam. Re-certification requirements need to be met every 3 years. For additional information visit the CSU website at cahs.ColoState.edu/ot/

Occupational Therapy for School Aged Children

OT is a service that is required to be provided under the Federal guidelines of IDEA to qualifying students in the public schools. It may address the any of the following:

  • Visual-motor skills which may include handwriting, cutting with scissors, accessing a keyboard, using manipulatives and self care.
  • Sensory processing skills which include visual, auditory, vestibular (movement), touch and oral-motor processing, organizational skills, ability to attend.
  • Hygiene, feeding and/or chewing and swallowing, and other self help skills required at school.
  • Cooking, shopping, housekeeping and other skills required for independent living after graduation.

Courtesy of the Sacramento City College - CLICK for Website

Additional Information

Places in which an Occupational Therapist may work include the following: General/Rehabilitation Hospitals, Universities and Community Colleges, Adult/Child Daycare Centers, Home Health Agencies, Community and Government Agencies, Mental Health Centers, Private Practice, Industry, Assistive Technology Programs, Public and Private Schools, Residential Care Facilities and Correction Facilities. Services are provided from birth to the elderly, ranging from the NICU to Hospice.

Internet References

Source: Yvonne Buck, OTR, Lakewood CO.

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