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  • Writer's pictureJen Brueton

What is Occupational Therapy?

"Occupational therapy is a client-centered health profession concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement.

Occupational therapists have a broad education in medical, social behavioural, psychological, psychosocial and occupational sciences which equips them with the attitudes, skills and knowledge to work collaboratively with people, individually or in groups or communities. Occupational therapists can work with all people, including those who have an impairment of body structure or function owing to a health condition, or who are restricted in their participation or who are socially excluded owing to their membership of social or minority groups.

Occupational therapists believe that participation can be supported or restricted by the physical, social, cultural, attitudinal and legislative environments. Therefore occupational therapy practice is focused on enabling individuals to change aspects of their person, the occupation, the environment or some combination of these to enhance occupational participation.

Occupational therapy is practiced in a wide range of public, private, voluntary sector settings, such as the person’s home environment; schools; workplaces; health centres; supported accommodation; housing for seniors; rehabilitation centres; hospitals and forensic services.

Clients are actively involved in the occupational therapy process. The outcomes are client-driven and measured in terms of participation, satisfaction derived from occupational participation and/or improvement in occupational performance.

Occupational therapy is a regulated health professional and requires a specific university training which complies with national and international standards of training”.

(Statement on occupational therapy: WFOT Council meeting 2010.)

Occupational therapists are at the forefront of rehabilitative services and are important role-players in achieving social integration and economic participation for people with disabilities. The profession is listed as a scarce "growth industry" in many parts of the world and is diversifying into new avenues in South Africa partly in response to new legislation like the Labour Relations Act and the Bill of Rights.

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