What is Occupational Therapy

How it all started

Occupational therapy is a health profession that focuses on helping individuals achieve independence and participation in the activities of daily living. The origins of the profession can be traced back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when a group of women known as "ward aides" or "occupation aides" began working with disabled veterans to provide them with meaningful activities to engage in while they were bedridden.

In the 21st century, occupational therapy has continued to evolve and adapt to the changing healthcare landscape. The profession has become more interdisciplinary and collaborative, and there is a growing focus on the use of technology and telehealth in practice. Overall, the history of occupational therapy reflects a gradual evolution and expansion of occupation, as it continues to adapt and respond to the changing needs of society and individuals.

After World War I, these women were moved to general hospitals, where the scope of the profession began to expand. In 1917, the National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy was founded, and in 1921, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) was established.

Throughout the 20th century, occupational therapy continued to evolve and expand. The profession became more evidence-based and focused on the use of specific interventions and activities to achieve therapeutic goals. In the 1950s and 60s, occupational therapy began to focus on the treatment of mental health conditions, and in the 1970s and 80s, the profession began to focus more on community-based practice.

A Holistic Approach

Occupational therapy uses a holistic approach to care, which means that practitioners consider the whole person, including their physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being, when developing treatment plans.

The holistic approach of occupational therapy is based on the understanding that a person's occupation, or the activities they engage in, is closely connected to their overall health and well-being. This means that occupational therapy practitioners assess and address the various factors that impact a person's ability to participate in the activities that are important to them.

When using a holistic approach, occupational therapists consider the following:

    • The person's physical abilities, including strength, coordination, and range of motion.
    • The person's cognitive and perceptual abilities, including memory, attention, and problem-solving.
    • The person's emotional and mental well-being, including mood and mental health conditions.
    • The person's social and cultural context, including their family and community support systems.
    • The person's environment, including the physical, social, and cultural context in which they live.

By considering all of these factors, occupational therapists are able to develop treatment plans that address the unique needs of each individual. This approach helps to ensure that the treatment is tailored to the person's specific needs and that it addresses the underlying causes of their difficulties, rather than just treating their symptoms.

In addition, occupational therapists consider the person's goals and priorities in order to create a treatment plan that is meaningful and relevant to their life. This approach helps to increase the person's motivation and participation in their therapy, and ultimately leads to better outcomes.

What Occupational Therapy Means to Me

As an occupational therapist, I have found that the principles and techniques of my profession have become an integral part of my daily life. Through my training, I have learned how to actively listen and truly understand the needs and perspectives of others. In my role as a parent, my knowledge of child development has enabled me to support my son's growth and independence. Additionally, my training has also allowed me to make a positive impact on the overall health and well-being of my community.

Occupational Therapy is really about helping people live to their fullest potential. To be a healthy mind, body, and soul. Rather than focusing on one part of the person, occupational therapists look at the whole person, environment, and occupation to see where we can help.