What is Occupational Therapy?

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Occupational therapy is a medical specialty that focuses on providing support to patients whose medical conditions prevent them from participating in certain lifestyle activities. Most of us take our ability to perform everyday activities for granted. However, there are people struggle to do some of the simplest activities because of some underlying physical or psychological condition. Occupational therapists provide these individuals with the support and help they need to overcome various obstacles and lead a better quality of life.

Some patients need occupational therapy because of congenital problems. Others need it because of age-related health issues and still others may need this specialist therapy because of an accident that affected their health and well-being. Occupational therapy can also be used as part of illness or injury rehabilitation programmes.

Occupational therapists are not limited to working only in hospitals or clinics or other healthcare settings. These specialists see and treat patients in their home, in schools or at patients’ workplaces.

Different sub-specialties within occupational therapy

Occupational therapy is a diverse field. Within this specialty, there are several sub-specialties, each of which deals with a specific range of conditions. Once you have completed your programme and are qualified to practice, you can either practice as a general occupational therapist or you can choose to specialise further in any of these specialties:

Health conditions that restrict mobility: As a practitioner in this specialty you would mainly deal with patients suffering from conditions such as arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. All of these conditions restrict a person’s ability to perform certain everyday functions and also affect various bodily actions, such as balance and movement.

Health conditions affecting children: OTs who specialise in this field mainly deal with children who have learning disabilities or other conditions such as autism that affect the way they communicate with other children and adults.

Conditions related to ageing: As people gets older, they often find it difficult to do some things that came easily to them in earlier years. In this specialty you would offer suggestions as to how to overcome these limitations either by way of alternative techniques or assistive devices.

Post-injury rehabilitation and recovery: Some injuries can result in permanent impediments, for which learning ways to cope is imperative in order for the person to be more independent. For example, after a stroke a person may have weakness on one side of the body and needs to learn new techniques to carry out daily activities.

Education and Training Requirements for Occupational Therapists

To become a qualified occupational therapist in Australia, you first need to finish an undergraduate or Masters entry-level occupational therapy course. Many universities throughout Australia offer these courses. Your course of study must be compliant with the World Federation Occupational Therapy (WFOT) standards.

Since 2012, all Australian occupational therapists need to be registered with the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia (OTBA), operated by the Allied Health Practitioners Registration Authority (AHPRA), in order to practice.

 

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