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Occupational Therapy Overview and Guide

Occupational therapy is the treatment of people who struggle with performing productive tasks due to one or more physical or psychological limitations. Occupational therapists primarily work with people who have mental, physical, developmental, and psychologically disabling conditions. Occupational therapy involves assistance with day-to-day activities, and it also involves training patients to learn how to earn a living and take care of themselves as much as possible even with their limitations.

Occupational therapy incorporates a wide range of different forms of treatment. Occupational therapists can treat both adults and children, and treatment may not only involve improving physical well-being but also improving the patient’s mood and mental condition. Occupational therapists are trained to evaluation a whole person’s well-being, and they may recommend additional forms of treatment when appropriate. Occupational therapists can also help their patients with tasks such as eating, dressing, cleaning, and other daily maintenance tasks. They can also train patients on how to use adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs, dressing aids, and eating aids.

There are several types of occupational therapies available due to the vast range of disabilities and limitations that occupational therapists treat. Many occupational therapies include some form of physical therapy which helps patients strengthen their muscles and reduce injuries. Depending on the type of disability, various other types of occupational therapies are included such as coordination therapy or sight recognition therapy. Occupational therapies may also involve helping patients with cognitive tasks such as critical thinking, higher thinking, and problem solving.

Types of Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists treat a wide range of disabilities, and as a result there are several specializations in the profession. In many settings, occupational therapists primarily help patients learn how to overcome their barriers to self-care and productive work. There are also several types of occupational therapies available for use by occupational therapists, and a primary purpose of these therapies is to assist patients with becoming more independent. Techniques such as energy conservation helps patients use the least amount of energy possible in order to get necessary tasks done.

Pediatric occupational therapists work with children who suffer from ailments such as autism, sensory deficiencies, delayed motor skills, or developmental disorders. Acute care occupational therapists typically work in an inpatient setting with patients who have suffered traumatic injuries such as burns, spinal cord injuries, and other disabling injuries. In this setting, occupational therapists prevent further degradation of the affected abilities while helping patients recover previous levels of functionality. Occupational therapy may involve teaching patients with psychological disorders how to cope with their illness and how to be productive in spite of their illnesses.

Those who suffer from burn injuries, amputations, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and others can benefit from occupational therapies. Also, those with mental disorders such as schizophrenia, substance abuse, dementia, depression, anxiety, mood disorders, personality disorders, and eating disorders can be treated with occupational therapy. There are many other illnesses and disabilities that also benefit from occupational therapy. Occupational therapists treat each patient uniquely so that treatment plans are more effective. The exercises and the individualized training that they provide to their patients help them recover and live more comfortably with their disabilities.

Occupational Therapy Services

Occupational therapists provide services that help disabled individuals regain partial to full functionality. There are a wide range of services provided by occupational therapists due to the varied and dynamic nature of the profession of occupational therapy. For instance, an occupational therapist may help a patient get ready for his or her day or assist patients with daily activities. They are also usually capable of providing various forms of physical therapy for patients with physical ailments. Occupational therapists are involved in the development and implementation of computer based assistance tools, and they teach patients how to effectively use these tools to regain productivity.
Occupational therapists help the elderly maintain their independence. Occupational therapists often treat elderly patients who are disabled due to chronic illness such as stroke, who have dementia, or who have other physical or chronic ailments. They can help the elderly maintain their driving abilities and also teach them how to use assistance equipment such as walkers or motorized wheelchairs. They can also use various techniques to help patients gain visual acuity if they require it.

With children, occupational therapists can provide several levels and types of treatment. Children who have physical congenital disabilities are treated uniquely depending on their particular disability. The same types of mobility assistance tools that are provided to adults are also provided to children. Children can learn how to perform better at school with the help of occupational therapists. Children with autism, emotional or behavioral disorders, and developmental delays greatly benefit from occupational therapy among other forms of therapy.

Benefits of Occupational Therapy

There are several tremendous benefits for patients and their families that derive from occupational therapy. A major benefit is the education that both patients and their families receive as part of the occupational therapy treatment process. Education on the patient’s illness, untapped capabilities, available tools, and the latest treatments is what empowers patients the most to overcome their disabilities. Disabled patients learn new ways to live more productively even with their limitations. With the help of occupational therapists patients with disabilities are often even able to gain some form of employment.

Occupational therapists are quite different from physical therapists. For a physical therapist, their primary goal is to rehabilitate an injury so that the patient heals as quickly and with as few complications as possible. On the other hand, occupational therapists treat the life affecting consequences of the injury and how the patient will have to adjust his or her life with their injury.

Occupational therapists are also trained at physical exercises and therapies, and they may provide these treatments to patients or they may train them on how to do those exercises themselves. Occupational therapists help children with autism and other disabilities live and develop as normal children. Occupational therapy is shown to reduce the further aggravation of pre-existing injuries through carefully selected daily maintenance routines that limit or eliminate the potential of injury.

Occupational therapists can specifically tailor a treatment and rehabilitation plan for each individual patient, and their wide scope and range of knowledge can address many factors of a disability. A patient’s physical, mental, and emotional needs are taken into consideration by occupational therapists, and the wide variety of occupational therapies available can be customized for each individual case as required.

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