What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy helps people overcome challenges that prevent them from doing things that others take for granted, like cooking a meal, playing cards, or going to work. Often referred to as just OT, it is a holistic discipline that encompasses physical movement, cognitive function, psychology, socializing, and mental health. The analysis of problems and finding ways to solve them, are the basic goals of occupational therapy.
For example, a person recovering from stroke may have significant weakness on their right side. The loss of their dominant hand makes things like cutting vegetables, showering, and using the computer difficult. OT for this person might focus on developing fine motor skills in the left hand, recommending pump dispensers and using a long handled sponge in the shower, and practice using a left-handed mouse.
Returning to work after a traumatic brain injury might require a more complex treatment plan and breaking tasks down into smaller components. For example, cooking a meal involves planning, grocery shopping, preparation, and then cooking. Each of those components involves tasks, like looking at recipes, taking the bus to the store, turning on, and remembering to turn off the oven. Occupational therapy looks at goals associated with daily living, and using alternative methods and assistive devices, devises ways to accomplish those goals.
The Difference Between Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy
While these two allied health disciplines do have similarities, the focus is different. For example, physiotherapy would be used to strengthen the muscles in the shoulder and arm, and improve range of motion. Occupational therapy would be used to redevelop the fine motor skills needed in the fingers to type on a keyboard, or to learn to type with only one hand.
Physiotherapy focuses on physical functioning, like bending and straightening your leg or turning your head, as well as improving muscle strength and eliminating pain. Occupational therapy focuses on the completion of specific tasks, or activities and behavior in a particular setting.
Occupational and physical therapists often work together on treatment planning.
Training for Occupational Therapy Practitioners
Occupational Therapy is a regulated profession in Canada. OTs must have a degree in occupational therapy from an accredited university; must pass a national competency exam; and must be a member in good standing of their provincial or territorial college.
University training includes human anatomy, social sciences and psychology to understand physical movement, cognitive functioning, and psychosocial factors that impact overall wellbeing.
Occupational therapists are problem solving specialists who help people find ways to care for themselves, socialize, and be productive, despite their challenges.
Our OT Program
Our occupational therapists work with those whose challenges stem from a neurological injury or disorder using a neurodiversity affirming approach. Children and teens with issues like concussion, learning problems, developmental delays, or cerebral palsy, can benefit from OT to improve hand-eye coordination, develop fine motor hand movements, learn ways to interact positively with others, and build greater independence with the aid of assistive devices.
Adults who have had a brain injury or stroke, or who have a degenerative disease like multiple sclerosis, benefit from occupational therapy by relearning familiar tasks or learning new methods of accomplishing the same goals. OTs assess your current skills, tools, and environment to find ways to get things done. In your home, this could include moving furniture, moving things around in your cupboards, lowering clothes racks, installing grab bars, or creating a reminder calendar. For getting to work and being productive, it might mean making adaptations to the car, learning a short-hand for taking notes, or using speech-to-text software. For hobbies, it might mean planting an indoor rather than outdoor garden, improving reaction time in game play, or using more safety equipment when wood carving.
These are just a few examples of how occupational therapy contributes to living our best lives.
Methods and Approaches to Occupational Therapy
Treatment planning considers physical, cognitive, psychosocial, and environmental issues and needs. Addressing each of these may include:
- Training and practice to improve performance.
- Adapting the environment or steps of a task.
- Alternative methods or the use of devices to work around limitations.
- Education and coaching to master physical, cognitive, and social skills.
Intensive therapy is available when appropriate.
Two of the specific methodological programs we offer are Integrated Listening Systems (ILS) and Cogmed. Integrated Listening Systems. ILS uses music and movement exercises to improve brain function and brain/body integration. The Cogmed Working Memory Training program improves attention and memory.
Please get in touch if you have any questions about our occupational therapy services.