When you hear the words occupational therapy what’s the first thing that springs to mind? For many the first question is ‘what is occupational therapy?’
In this post I am going to be breaking down occupational therapy; explaining what it is, how it works, who benefits from it, where it is carried out and what a successful outcome looks like.
What is Occupational Therapy?
When you google ‘occupational therapy’ the first page to appear is the NHS website. The definition on this website states: ‘Occupational therapy aims to improve your ability to do everyday tasks if you’re having difficulties.’ My definition of occupational therapy would be assisting an individual to fulfil their full potential, using an assessment – intervention-based model. As an occupational therapist you do not see ‘one type’ of client. I work with people across the life span, who may have conditions that are mentally, physically, developmentally, socially or emotionally disabling. An occupational therapist will also help them to develop, recover, or maintain daily living and work skills. Occupational therapists help clients not only to improve their basic cognitive function and reasoning abilities, but also to compensate for permanent loss of occupation.I see people with injuries and disabilities, I can also see people who have sustained catastrophic injuries. We work with people with or without a clinical diagnosis – regardless of their diagnoses, and with people from various walks of life. The key indicator that occupational therapy would be beneficial is that for whatever reason the individual has recognised that there are barriers that impact upon their ability to function effectively and efficiently throughout their day, during a particular activity or component of their daily life, or within a particular environment. It is essential to recognise that the client is the expert and is the font of all knowledge regarding themselves. With this, we add our clinical knowledge regarding activity analysis function, functional capacity and the quality of the person’s function which I refer to as occupational performance, (just how effective and efficient is a person when undertaking everything they want and need to do in all aspects of their lives.) We as occupational therapists are experts in ‘doing’, assessing doing, developing and increasing doing’. We work collaboratively with the client and when required, with other key stakeholders to identify problems and difficulties, we assist them to develop and implement appropriate strategies and solutions to overcome the challenges that they are experiencing and achieve sustainable success. Success being whatever ‘success’ means to that person in the context of their life.
How does Occupational Therapy work?
The way you implement occupational therapy completely depends on the client and their individual needs. The occupational therapy process starts by contacting an occupational therapy consultancy; such as ‘Kate Meads Associates.’ The process always begins with an enquiry from the individual, an employer, a friend or family member, a case manager, solicitor or SENCO. After the initial enquiry has been made an assessment will soon follow. This will be carried out by the occupational therapist. The occupational therapist will meet the client in the most appropriate environment. From the very first contact I have with my clients I focus on ensuring they feel comfortable and confident, even over the phone. The next step is meeting face to face. The meeting takes place at their workplace, home or a community setting. It is important for the occupational therapist and the client to meet face to face to gain an understanding and assess the functional difficulties and challenges the client is experiencing, what they need and/or want to be different to enable the occupational therapist to make clinically sound recommendations, develop intervention plans and goals which are meaningful to the client. From the initial contact and the functional needs assessment the occupational therapist will establish a therapeutic rapport during this initial phase of the occupational therapy process, the occupational therapist will identify the person’s strengths and limitations whilst deciphering what the primary and secondary factors are impacting uponthe client’s life. The occupational therapist will assess biological, psychological, social, and environmental. Highlighting any barriers or potential barriers. The assessment provides a platform of possibilities and recommendations from which suitable intervention and programmes, if required can be developed and implemented. The key to effective occupational therapy is for the, development and outcome of intervention to be useful, meaningful and sustainable to the person. If it isn’t what’s the point!
Who benefits from Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy can benefit everyone! As I said earlier, we see clients from all walks of life. There doesn’t need to be a ‘diagnoses’ in order for a client to benefit from having occupational therapy. You could just be feeling slightly out of kilter, perhaps a little overwhelmed in your job? I see clients who simply want to increase their productivity at work, but don’t know how, or what to do to successfully achieve this. The strategies, adaptations and accommodations you make whilst working with the occupational therapist need to be and should be sustainable and transferable to all elements of one’s life.
Where does occupational therapy takes place?
Intervention takes place in locations which are appropriate to the clients needs. For example, the occupational therapist could meet the client at college, work, home or a community setting. We as occupational therapists want to make sure intervention is always flexible around the client and their schedule. We work together to problem solve the identified barriers and potential problems which may arise. What makes us different is that we are not impairment focused, we do not follow a medical model instead we use out expertise in function ‘doing’ and remain outcome focused, which is paramount for the client to achieve their desired goals.
How long does my client need an occupational therapist for?
The answer to this question simply does not exist. It completely depends on the client, their circumstance and need. I could see one client once another for four weeks, another for twelve weeks, another for twenty-four, but either way our combined focus is to achieve sustainable outcomes.
What is a successful outcome?
We as occupational therapists are facilitators of function …of ‘doing’ and for me it’s the sustainability of function that truly equates to success. However, success can and will only be maintained if the client recognises the triggers and warning signs of dysfunction and continues to apply the bespoke principles and strategies learnt during occupational therapy.
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