- Jasmine Curtis, OTS
Myths About Occupational Therapy
Have you ever heard of occupational therapy? What comes to mind when you think about this profession? If you are not familiar with what occupational therapy is, well let me tell you. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (2018), “Occupational therapy is the only profession that helps people across the lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations).” Occupational therapists, thus, are health professionals who practice occupational therapy by enabling people of all ages live life to the fullest by helping them promote health, prevent, and/or live better with injury, illness, or disability (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2018). However, there are some common misconceptions about what the profession and the individuals who practice it does. Here are 5 of the most common misconceptions:
1. Occupational therapists help people find jobs.
People tend to get hung up on the word “occupation,” which is okay, but this is not what we do. We help people be able to get back to their occupations, not find jobs. Occupations include things that we do on an everyday basis that contributes to our daily life. This includes work, but also includes education, activities we do every day to get ourselves ready for the day (dressing, showering/bathing, eating, etc.), activities we do to support daily life within the home and community (care for others, child rearing, financial management, meal preparation and clean up, shopping, etc.), rest and sleep, play, leisure, and social participation. We help restore, maintain, or enhance those key functions that were injured or disabled and necessary for participation in all occupations.
2. Like physical therapy?
While both OT and PT are sister professions and tend work closely with each other, they are not the same. Occupational therapy focuses on everything in life; the things that you need in order to get dressed, eat, take care of personal hygiene, work, etc. It gives people the opportunity to focus on the simple things that make the world go ‘round to achieve personal independence. The key point of physical therapy is mobility and strength. For example, someone has fallen and injured their knee. They would attend physical therapy to get help with bending and flexing their knee by strengthening the muscles around it and helping the person to walk. If they needed and were to see an occupational therapist, they would be taught strategies on how to move around their environment, how to dress their lower body, shower, etc., without re-injuring their knee.
3. Occupational therapists work mainly with the upper extremity.
This is a common, yet false, myth about occupational therapists. Occupational therapists can work, within their scope of practice, on any part of the human body, even the lower extremities, and spine.
“OTs do address functional deficits related to spinal surgery, as well as spine and lower extremity conditions. OTs treat these conditions from an occupation-based perspective. This includes training functional movements required to perform ADL and IADL tasks, such as bathing, dressing, and home management, as well as leisure activities that involve the spine and/or lower extremities (American Occupational Therapy Association , 2018)
4. Occupational therapists work only with older people (elderly).
While working with the elderly is certainly a part of our client base, this is not the group of individuals we tend to work with. We help many types of people, across the lifespan, accomplish their recovery goals, often simple one’s related to everyday life, such as learning how to write, picking up a glass of water, or adjusting to new surroundings.
5. Occupational therapists work in hospitals.
Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings including outpatient clinics, nursing facilities, schools, community-based programs, mental health facilities, day care centers, and home health.
American Occupational Therapy Association . (2018). Q&A: Treating spine and LE injuries . Retrieved from https://www.aota.org/Practice/Manage/Scope-of-Practice-QA/spine.aspx
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2018). What is occupational therapy? Retrieved from AOTA: https://www.aota.org/Conference-Events/OTMonth/what-is-OT.aspx