What Is an OT?

What is an Occupational Therapist?

An Occupational Therapist (OT) is a healthcare 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 and Organization

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

▼   What Does An Occupational Therapist Do?
Occupational therapists typically do the following:
  • 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?
Occupational therapists typically help clients in the following ways:
  • 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?
Occupational therapists typically work in the following places:
  • 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
▼   OT Occupational Employment and Wages

Employment of occupational therapists is expected to grow 14 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations 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