What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapy aims to improve your ability to do everyday tasks if you’re having difficulties.

What does an occupational therapist do?

Occupational therapy provides support to people whose health prevents them doing the activities that matter to them.

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

They can work with you to identify goals that can help you maintain, regain, or improve your independence by using different techniques, changing your environment, and using new equipment.

Who can benefit from occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy is used when someone is having difficulty with everyday tasks. This could be because they have 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

After identifying the difficulties a person has with everyday tasks, occupational therapists can help by either:

  • practising the activity in manageable stages
  • 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. A number of items can be used or fitted in the bathroom to make this easier.

Grab rails can be positioned to help the user and provide stability.

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A battery powered lift can be placed in the bath.

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Padded transfer bench offers a safe and comfortable way to transfer into the bath and sit while bathing

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Someone with rheumatoid arthritis – a condition that causes pain and swelling in the joints – may find it hard to lift small objects.

Wide-handed vegetable peeler

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Long reach Grabber

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Walking stick

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Cutlery with larger grips

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

What do occupational therapists do?

An occupational therapist’s job is to help people of all ages to overcome any permanent loss or lack of physical, sensory, mental or communication function.

Their aim is to help people improve their ability to function as independently as possible so that they can participate in whatever activities are meaningful and important to them. Occupational therapists do this mainly by identifying and eliminating environmental barriers to independence and participation in normal daily life.

Whilst occupational therapy services are available free of charge from the NHS and social services, the independent occupational therapists listed in the directory hosted on this website will charge a fee for their services. Independent occupational therapists usually provide services that are not available from the NHS or social services and/or have no waiting lists.

How to get occupational therapy

You can get occupational therapy free through the NHS or social services, depending on your situation.

You can:

You can also pay for it yourself. The Royal College of Occupational Therapists lists qualified and registered occupational therapists.

Find an occupational therapist

You can check an occupational therapist is qualified and registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) using their online register.

How occupational therapy can help you?

Occupational therapy can help you with practical tasks if you:

  • are physically disabled
  • are recovering from an illness or operation
  • have learning disabilities
  • have mental health problems
  • are getting older

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

They look at activities you find difficult and see if there’s another way you can do it.

The Royal College of Occupational Therapists has more information about what occupational therapy is.

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