Occupational therapy is a health care service which helps an individual to identify and resolve difficulties which can keep them from doing activities which are significant to them. These activities are things which we do everyday like personal care (dressing, eating, household tasks), productive activities like going to school, holding down a job, participating in community projects, or leisure activities such as sports, cultural activities, gardening or other things. Occupational therapy can help prevent a difficulty, or minimise the effect of a difficulty or disability.

Occupational therapy includes a great variety of clientele, whether it be a newborn baby or a person at the end of their life. OTs can evaluate and work with in physical medicine with clients who have incapacities caused by injury or disease (arthritis, orthopedic or neurological problems, spinal cord injuries, head injuries, neurodegenerative diseases, hand injuries, burns, deafness, blindness, work accidents, etc.) or with clients who have incapacities caused by mental health issues (in psychiatry, or with people who have difficulties caused by dementia, learning difficulties, attention deficit with or without hyperactivity, autism spectrum disorder, sensory difficulties or others).

What is an Occupational Therapist?

Occupational therapists, providers of occupational therapy services, are university-educated health care professionals who apply their specialized knowledge and abilities in order to recommend a preventive, corrective or therapeutic measures which will help the client to lead a more productive and satisfying life. OTs are trained to understand not only the medical or physical limitations of a disability or injury, but also the psychosocial factors which affect the complete function of a person. OTs are part of a regulated medical profession and they must be registered in their provincial order in order to practice their profession in Canada.

What does an Occupational therapist do?

An occupational therapist evaluates the client and his/her environment in order to understand why the client is unable to do the activity he needs to or wants to do. The OT looks at the physical capacities (strength, coordination, balance) and the mental capacities of a person (memory, organisational skills, ability to adapt. judgement), the tools needed for a task (furniture, utensils, clothes), what kind of support the person has in their environment and how that environment is organized (home, classroom, workplace). After this the OT can :

  • Suggest activities which can help to maintain or improve the capacities of their clients.
  • Give information to the client concerning how he/she can go about their occupations with the abilities which they have (getting around their environment in a wheelchair, using a computer as an aid for communication or to help compensate for some learning difficulties).
  • Suggest adaptations to the material which the person uses, like making modifications to the steering wheel of a car to enable someone to drive with one hand, installing a raised toilet seat, or using a pencil grip to help pencil grasp.
  • Suggest changes to the client’s environment : adapting a house so the client can use a wheelchair in the house. Reducing noise or visual stimulation to help someone with a sensory issue or difficulty with concentration or by finding the necessary support in the community , like adapted transportation.

Here are links to the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapy website, the Quebec order of Occupational Therapy website.

Here are two videos about occupational therapy for more information.

Information found on this page is inspired by the CAOT website: https://www.caot.ca/