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Pat Capps Covey College of Allied Health Professions
Department of Occupational Therapy
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What is an Occupational Therapist?

A health care professional who works with people of all ages who, because of illness, injury, or developmental or psychological impairment, need specialized assistance in learning skills to lead independent, productive, and satisfying lives.

Professional Designation: OTR - Occupational Therapist Registered
Professional Organization: AOTA -  American Occupational Therapy Association

What Does An Occupational Therapist Do? OT and patient using crafts as therapy
  • Helps people improve their ability to perform tasks in their daily living and working environments
  • Helps clients improve basic motor functions and reasoning abilities
  • Helps clients compensate for permanent loss of function
  • Prevents injury or the worsening of existing conditions or disabilities
  • Promotes independent functioning in individuals who may otherwise require institutionalization or other long-term care

In What Ways Can an OT Help Clients?

OT students preparing a hand & thumb splint
  • Assists clients in performing activities of all types, ranging from using a computer to caring for daily needs such as dressing, cooking, and eating
  • Instructs in the use of adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs, splints, and aids for eating and dressing
  • Designs or makes special equipment needed at home or at work
  • Increases strength and dexterity through the use of physical exercises
  • Uses various exercises to aid in recall, hand-eye coordination, visual acuity, and decision making
  • Chooses activities to help people learn to cope with daily life, such as time management, use of public transportation, etc.

Learn to help clients function who have these health and rehabilitation challenges:

Stroke alcoholism
spinal cord injuries eating disorders
cancer depression
developmental problems short-term memory loss
congenital conditions drug abuse
mental illness mental retardation
cerebral palsy stress related disorders
muscular dystrophy  

Where Does an Occupational Therapist Work? OT and child using crafts as therapy
  • Hospitals, including rehabilitation and psychiatric hospitals
  • Offices and clinics of occupational therapists and other health practitioners
  • School systems
  • Home health agencies
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Community mental health centers
  • Adult daycare programs
  • Job training services
  • Residential care facilities
  • Self-employed in private practice

Job Outlook

Expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations from 2010-2020 due to the following:
  • growth in the number of individuals with disabilities or limited function requiring therapy services
  • baby-boomers entering older adulthood, when the possibility of heart attack and stroke increases
  • rapidly growing population of those 75 years of age and older
  • medical advances that enable more patients to survive critical health problems
  • hospitals will continue to need OT's to serve acutely ill patients as well as those requiring outpatient rehabilitation
  • expansion of school-age population and extended services for disabled students
  • Click on the Occupational Outlook Handbook for more details

University of South Alabama Pat Capps Covey College of Allied Health Professions Department of Occupational Therapy