Occupational therapy is skilled
treatment designed for individuals or groups whose performance
of the ordinary tasks and activities of daily living has been
disrupted. It is called "occupational"
therapy because of the emphasis it places upon the importance
of occupation (e.g., functional tasks and activities performed
throughout life that are meaningful and purposeful to the individual).
The historical basis of the profession is in the early twentieth
century when physicians and others began to notice that sick people
engaged in activities (usually crafts) appeared to get well faster
than those who had nothing to occupy their time. The concept of
"occupation" continues to be studied, discussed and
refined; its theoretical basis to practice has become a separate
discipline called occupational science.
practitioners are educated in science as well as in liberal arts:
human development, anatomy, physiology, pathology, and psychology.
They complete supervised clinical internships in different health
care settings and must pass a national examination (presided over
by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy,
Inc.) An entry level occupational therapist has earned a bachelor,
master, or doctoral degree. (The profession began at the associate
level, moved to a four-year bachelor level, and now requires a
five-year master degree. An innovative entry-level practice doctoral
degree has recently been developed by several universities.)
therapist who has completed the required academic program, has
passed the national exam, and/or has satisfied the requirement
for certification renewal adds "registered" to his or
her title and uses the initials "OTR." An entry level
occupational therapy assistant has generally completed a two-year
associate degree program. The occupational therapy assistant who
has completed the required training program, passed the national
exam, and/or has satisfied the requirements for certification
renewal adds "certified" to his or her title and uses
the initials "COTA."
The American Occupational
Therapy Association (AOTA) is the professional organization that
supports the practice of occupational therapy and is responsible
for publication of its official journal The American Journal of
Occupational Therapy (AJOT). The AOTA has an informative website
that may be of interest to consumers.
In many states,
licensure is required for the practice of OT; this is usually
indicated by an "L", e.g., OTR/L, LOTR, and COTA/L.