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Occupational therapy - Introduction

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Occupational therapy aims to promote people's health and wellbeing through everyday activities.

An occupational therapist can identify problem areas you may have in everyday life, such as dressing or getting to the shops, and will help you work out practical solutions.

By using different techniques, changing your environment and using new equipment, an occupational therapist can help you regain or improve your independence.

Who can benefit from occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy is used when someone is having difficulty with everyday tasks. This could be because of a:

Occupational therapists work with people of all ages and can look at all aspects of daily life, from the home to the school or workplace.

Read more about when occupational therapy is used.

Occupational therapy techniques

Occupational therapists identify activities which are causing difficulties. They then help by doing one of the following:

  • teaching a different way to complete the activity
  • recommending changes that will make the activity easier
  • providing devices that make activities easier

For example, after a hip replacement someone may find it difficult to get in and out of the bath. Grab rails could be fitted in the bathroom to make this easier.

Someone with rheumatoid arthritis (a condition that causes pain and swelling in the joints) may find it hard to lift small objects. Special equipment, such as a wide-handled vegetable peeler, may be available to make tasks easier.

Read more about occupational therapy techniques and equipment.

The aim of these changes is to allow you to improve your ability to do everyday tasks. This can include both work and leisure activities.

Read more about occupational therapy rehabilitation.

How is it accessed?

The way you access occupational therapy depends on the duration and severity of your condition.

In most cases, care is provided by the NHS or your local council, although private care is also an option.

Read more about accessing occupational therapy.

The professional body for occupational therapists working in a wide range of areas in the UK is the British Association of Occupational Therapy (BAOT). The association, which includes the College of Occupational Therapists (COT), publishes several helpful patient information leaflets explaining how their work can help.

Medical Review: August 21, 2012
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