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Health Care Providers: Occupational Therapists

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What Is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy helps people manage activities of daily life. It helps people with a physical, sensory, or cognitive issue be as independent as possible in all areas of their lives.

What Is an Occupational Therapist?

Occupational therapists (OTs) help people that have injuries, illnesses, slow development, or disabilities. They help them develop, regain, and improve skills needed for daily working and living.

Why Would Someone Need One?

OTs treat conditions that can affect everyday living, such as:

Occupational therapists develop a treatment plan to improve things like: 

  • endurance
  • cognition (thinking)
  • coordination and balance
  • feeding
  • fine-motor skills (such as handwriting and grasping items)
  • hand–eye coordination
  • using a prosthetic
  • pain management
  • self-care and basic activities of daily living (ADL) (such as bathing, getting dressed, brushing teeth, and self-feeding)
  • sensory processing and integration
  • visual motor skills

What Is Their Training?

Occupational therapists have 5 to 6 years of educational training, which includes:

  • a 4-year bachelor’s degree in a field related to occupational therapy (biology, psychology, sociology, kinesiology, health science, or liberal arts) from a college or university
  • a 2- to 3-year master of occupational therapy (MOT) degree from an accredited occupational therapy program
  • a passing grade on the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) test

They also might have a:

  • doctor of occupational therapy (OTD) degree
  • transitional doctor of occupational therapy (t-OTD) degree
  • OTAs (occupational therapy assistants) work with and are supervised by OTs. Besides a high school diploma, they have a degree from an accredited OTA program and many are licensed or certified.

Good to Know

OTs work in many different places, including hospitals, schools, patient homes, clinics, rehab facilities, and nursing homes.

Date reviewed: September 2022