What Does an Occupational Therapist Do? The 3 Almighty Super Powers

What does an occupational therapist do? It can be a tricky question to give just one answer to. Occupational therapists have a range of skills, and occupational therapy is the magic that happens when you mix science and psychology.  It’s an allied health profession, like physical therapists, that helps humans of all ages to have a better life full of purposeful activities.  

What is Occupational Therapy?

“The practice of occupational therapy means the therapeutic use of everyday life occupations to support occupational performances and participation.”
The occupational therapy definition is everything but simple.

Seriously what?  No wonder everyone is always asking me what does an occupational therapist do? No one knows what we do.

After 25 years in this profession, I will tell you how it is.  

Occupational therapy is the only profession that helps all types of amazing humans across the lifespan to do what they want and need to do.  

One of our superpowers is using the therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations). Occupational therapists are super awesome.  We enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health and prevent or have an easier time with—injury, illness, or disability. Occupational therapists treat not just one ailment but a range of needs. 

Occupational Therapist Requirements

It is essential to know exactly how someone (like me) becomes an occupational therapist to be able to understand what we do and answer the question of what does an occupational therapist do? This way, you can see precisely how extensively trained we are to help create patient treatment plans. So how to become an occupational therapist? 

  • Bachelor’s Degree- Biology, health science, or psychology are recommended.
  • Graduate Degree- Obtain a Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) and a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree.
  • Certification- pass the National Board of Certification of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) examination to be licensed to practice in the United States and becomes part of the occupational therapy association. 

After all of this hard work, occupational therapists work in various environments, from health care offices to your home. But, what does an occupational therapist do exactly? 

Yes, that is the question I am promising to answer; what does an occupational therapist do? I will break down the three superpowers occupational therapists have, which help make life a little easier for the clients and patients they see.

OT Super Power Number One: Task Analysis

A few years ago, I got together with two of my college classmates, and we went on and on about task analysis.  I know it’s super geeky, but true.  

One friend works at the VA with veterans recovering from cognitive deficits.  The other friend works in orthopedic rehabilitation, and I work in schools and private practice.  Each of us works in a different work environment, yet they are all the same in some ways.

What does an occupational therapist do? Task analysis, writing a list of things needed for patients

Occupational therapists must be able to look at different tasks and have the ability to break down what the client or patient is struggling to overcome. This way, we can create a program and find the just-right activity or get them one step closer to their desired ” task, “which is the superpower of task analysis!

OT Super Power Number Two: Therapeutic Use Of Activities

Therapeutic use of activities is the fancy lingo for how we do what we do.  

Occupational therapy is the only profession that helps people across their lifespan do things they want and need to 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 pain—or live better with—injury, illness, or disability.

Breaking it down even further for you. Here are a few occupational therapy examples of the therapeutic use of activities:

  • Developing fine motor skills- cutting or developing handwriting. Watch my video about ways to develop fine motor skills here!
  • Transfers- switching from laying to sitting or standing to sitting. 
  • Developing gross motor skills- working through an obstacle course, throwing, and catching objects. Yup, I have a great video about gross motor skills too!
What does an occupational therapist do? helps children with their handwriting

OT Super Power Number Three: Occupation Performance

Where and how you do what you do. 

By using occupational performance, we make sure all of our sessions are important to the client based on their lifestyle and their choice of purposeful activities. We help with everyday activities like self-care activities, leisure activities, education, relationships, vocational, playing, and so many more…

Occupational Therapy can help just about anyone needing to get better, overcome or prevent a life struggle.  We look at their occupational performance and find their strengths and challenges. Then we break it down using task analysis for the just-right challenge while having a ball/blast/party with your favorite therapeutic activities. We are always ready to be a team player, so whether the client also has a physical therapist, a mental health professional, or we need to bring in occupational therapy assistants, occupational therapists are ready to help the patient in any way necessary! 

I hope all of that answers the question what does an occupational therapist do? And I hope I made it just a little clearer for you. Remember, we are always in our corner, and what one occupational therapist does may be different from another. We are always actively looking for solutions. 

Want to see exactly how I can help your family? Maybe I can even answer the question, what does an occupational therapist do for you!

Looking for some more helpful information about occupational therapists SUPERPOWERS, check out these blog posts.

3 Ways To Improve Your Kids’ Handwriting
Improving Your Child’s Working Memory