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How are PT and OT different?

Physical and occupational therapy are both professions that work to prevent

disability and improve quality of life, but they are not the same.

Below are the governing bodies’ definitions of each profession.

Occupational therapy: “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 therapy practitioners

enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and

prevent—or live better with—injury, illness, or disability (AOTA, 2020).”

Physical therapy: “Physical therapists teach patients how to prevent or manage their

condition so that they will achieve long-term health benefits. PTs examine each

individual and develop a plan, using treatment techniques to promote the ability to

move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. In addition, PTs work

with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing

fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.”

For example, if a client comes into the clinic after having a stroke they will likely see

both PT and OT. With PT, they may be addressing safe walking and improving

deficits in movement and strength. With OT, they may be working on similar deficits

of movement in strength, but through the lens of participating in daily occupations

such as cooking, cleaning, and working.

  1. American Occupational Therapy Association [AOTA]. (2020). What is occupational therapy?

  2. American Physical Therapy Association [APTA]. (2020). Who are physical therapists?

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