occupational therapist helping patient

Occupational therapy (OT) involves a unique combination of both physical and mental health assistance by using “everyday life activities (occupations) to promote health, well-being and your ability to participate in the important activities in your life,” according to the American Occupational Therapy Association. An occupational therapist evaluates a patient’s performance skills, habits, routines and more to understand any barriers that may hinder their ability to participate in vital, daily life activities. They then help the patient overcome those challenges in a variety of creative and effective ways.

It is important to recognize that the role of an occupational therapist is not to simply keep patients busy as a distraction but to tailor a patient’s treatment specifically to fit their needs, preferences and goals. This allows an occupational therapist and their occupational therapy assistant (OTA) to be more creative with their approach and discover new ways of improving a patient’s day-to-day life.

What Treatment Methods or Approaches Do Occupational Therapists Utilize?

Occupational therapy seeks to provide innovative healthcare methods and techniques that take into account a patient’s overall health and well-being to promote a healthier (and happier) lifestyle. Skilled occupational therapists rely on a variety of evidence-based approaches to help their patients cope and/or recover from physical injuries, mental illness, cognitive impairments, psychosocial dysfunction and developmental or learning disabilities.

An OT’s approach will often involve:

  • Exploring and implementing self-regulated sensory strategies (i.e., incorporating yoga and movement exercises)
  • Introducing positive structural changes to a patient’s daily habits and routines
  • Educating on various social skills to support a patient’s ability to make friends, problem solve, follow social etiquette and more
  • Elevating a patient’s self-care practices to increase motivation, raise energy levels and enhance mood
  • Pinpointing any interferences at home, work or school
  • Modifying a given environment to heighten a patient’s attention space and participation
  • Identifying unhealthy coping mechanisms and replacing them with more productive coping skills (i.e., deep breathing, meditation or guided imagery)
  • Analyzing employment status and settings to identify opportunities for supportive employment
  • Promoting self-awareness and skills development
  • Reducing a patient’s stress levels by engaging in relaxation techniques (i.e., taking up a hobby, exercising, etc.)

What Types of Community Settings Will Occupational Therapists Provide Care?

The 1963 Community Mental Health Act detailed inadequacies in the nation’s mental health services and changed the overall landscape of OT, creating a more community-centric approach to treating mental illness.

Today, occupational therapists and OTAs service the following types of community settings:

  • Correctional facilities
  • Community mental health centers
  • After-school programs
  • Homes and worksites
  • Senior centers
  • Psychosocial clubhouses and facilities
  • Consumer-operated programs
  • Homeless and women’s shelters
  • Assertiveness community treatment (ACT) teams

What Barriers Do Occupational Therapists Address?

It is an OT and OTA’s job to identify areas that may be hindering a patient’s optimal functioning and implement interventions to address those barriers. To put it simply, occupational therapy is an essential profession in the healthcare space that helps patients with a physical limitation or mental illness develop skills and behavior patterns needed to live a positive and fulfilling life.

Occupational therapists will use various OT techniques (such as self-care, performance skills and advocacy) when they see barriers related to a patients’:

  • Safety
  • Stigma
  • Lack of long-term housing and/or community support
  • Low socioeconomic status

Become an Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) By Pursuing an Associate Degree from St. Louis College of Health Careers in Missouri

Students with an interest in supporting a patient’s mental health, independence and wellbeing through various evidence-based implementation techniques may consider pursuing an OTA degree at SLCHC. Our Occupational Therapy Assistant program teaches you effective treatment methods for individuals whose quality of life has been impacted by an injury, ailment or disability.

As an OTA, you will work closely with an occupational therapist to provide holistic treatments to patients with mental illness. OTA graduates of SLCHC can enter their healthcare career in a variety of settings including nursing homes, rehab centers, government and prison systems, private businesses and more.

To learn more about our fully accredited Occupational Therapy Assistant program as well as other healthcare programs, call 866-529-2070 or contact us online.

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