What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is a health care profession. We are therapists that are focused on the concept of occupation.


This is everything people do that helps them live and gives purpose to their daily life.
Simply put, think about everything you do in a day from the moment you get out of bed, brush your teeth, make breakfast, go to work/school/volunteering/groups, to playing sports and socialising. Think about all the skills you require to do these activities. Now, imagine that one day you woke up and you couldn’t move, you were in pain, or perhaps you have been diagnosed with depression.  

So this is where OTs can show their worth, because as OTs we work WITH you to help you reach your pOTential.

So what is occupation?

Occupation entails everything people do to occupy themselves, including looking after themselves (self-care e.g. dressing, toileting and showering), enjoying their life (leisure e.g. play and recreation activities), and contributing to the social and economic fabric of their communities (productivity e.g. employment, volunteering or student roles).

Polatajko et al., 2007b, p. 17

Who do we work with?

In short, we work at many different levels being population, community and individual health. For example, we are concerned with promoting good health through policy changes that encourage people to look after their mental and physical well-being.

We also support people of any age from infancy to clients who may be dying.

Our aim is to help people who are struggling to participate in their occupations due to disability, illness, disease. We are not limited to just one client group!

Where might you see us?

Because occupational therapists can work with any age and disability type you can see us in many settings!

  • Schools, universities
  • Hospitals departments (stroke, hand therapy, orthopaedic, pediatric, mental health, rehabilitation, community settings…)
  • Advocacy
  • Local councils
  • With architects
  • Prisons
  • Mental health facilities
  • In health care teams alongside doctors, nurses, social work, physio, psychologists …
  • With refugees
  • homeless centres
  • Domestic violence units
  • Maternal health units
  • Aged care facilities

What are some interventions OTs do?

Occupational therapists can be trained in many different skills; some include:

  • Mental health interventions
  • Wheel chair prescription
  • Home modifications
  • Ergonomics
  • Changing school curriculum for children with certain needs
  • Splinting
  • Support parents in helping their child with a disability
  • Upper limb retraining
  • Driving assessments
  • Anxiety management strategies

But my favourite is Mental Health.  

Because in mental health occupational therapists can provide hope, meaning and purpose when all things feel lost.   



Because of OT I can


Polatajko, H. J., Davis, J., Stewart, D., Cantin, N., Amoroso, B., Purdie, L., & Zimmerman, D. (2007). Specifying the domain of concern: Occupation as core. In E. A. Townsend & H. J. Polatajko (Eds.), Enabling occupation II: Advancing an occupational therapy vision for health, well-being, & justice through occupation (pp. 13—36). Ottawa, ON: CAOT Publications.   


Published by OT Trauma Tools

Founder Mental health Advocate; Phd Candidate; Occupational Therapy Teacher and Researcher Australia “As an occupational therapist diagnosed with BPD I will use this page to share about the various interventions and strategies that are helpful to those with BPD. I will also share about the positive and sometimes challenging approaches that health professionals have used in my treatment in emergency, inpatient, outpatient and community settings. I hope that by sharing my lived experience I can help improve the experience of those struggling to understand Borderline Personality Disorders (BPD) and also support those living with BPD and other mental health challenges Most importantly we will share how occupation can powerfully help change lives!" Laura

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