Occupational therapy and occupational rehabilitation is defined by the American Occupational Therapy Association as, “The therapeutic use of work, self-care, and play activities to increase development and prevent disability. It may include adaptation of task or environment to achieve maximum independence and to enhance the quality of life.” With occupation being defined as the way in which people spend their time, daily life can be broken down into 3 categories: self care, work and leisure.
When further broken down, each daily task in our routine can be categorized into one of the three occupational categories of self care, work or leisure. Thus, occupational rehab or occupational therapy will assist individuals with routine / daily tasks in a way that will prevent them from becoming disabled by increasing the development skills that are necessary to live.
Types of Occupational Rehab and Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy is helpful for individuals of all ages, abilities and demographics. Whether it is to help with a birth defect, injury, illness, or disability that comes on early or late in life, occupational rehab can help restore function or at least make special accommodations for the deficits that an individual may experience. Occupational rehab can provide the assistance needed to perform daily activities and routine life functions in a successful and dependent way.
Occupational therapy is not just beneficial for the elderly or those who have been disabled later in life. For children, occupational rehabilitation can help a child to understand and focus on their daily life roles such as play, social skills, paying attention and developing academic skills. These skills are all vitally important to the development of a child through school, child care and even at home.
For many individuals, occupational rehab can assist with restoring function following a disability, illness or other development delay such as mental illness, autism, and even down syndrome. The role of the occupational therapy rehab center is to restore as much function and ability to perform daily tasks as possible for the individual suffering from the deficit. Similar to physical therapy (which restores movement and strength), occupational therapy and occupational rehab looks to restore function and activity which sometimes requires the team approach of both an occupational therapy rehab and a physical therapist working together.
Services Offered by Occupational Rehab Centers and Occupational Therapy Centers
The services offered by occupational rehab centers are potentially limitless. For example, an occupational rehab center may have a patient that has poor upper body strength and limited mobility in their arms. The occupational therapist will try to learn more about the patient in order to understand what type of activities are most enjoyed or performed with that patient’s upper body and specifically the arms in order to specially tailor an occupational therapy program that will strengthen and restore function in the upper body. If the patient likes playing tennis, the occupational therapist may have the patient play tennis on a low scale at first (such as ping pong) and gradually working up to full scale tennis in order to restore function of the upper body.
Occupational therapy and occupational rehab also focuses on helping individuals who suffer from mental illness such as addictive behaviors or obsessive behaviors to learn how to occupy their time more productively. For instance, an occupational therapist may help a patient who suffers from OCD to learn how to spend the time usually spent obsessing over something doing something more productive and leisurely. This will also involve teaching the patient how to make healthy choices (mentally and physically), handle the symptoms of their condition, and also regain function of daily life activities.
The services offered by occupational rehab and occupational therapists are definitely varied in scope but the primary goal remains the same: to help individuals with deficits (disabilities, illness, or injury) to restore function an live independently.