Occupational therapy – guide for individuals and professionals
Clinical Director at Krysalis Consultancy Ltd
Published on April 26, 2019
What does an Occupational Therapist (OT) do?
OTs use activities as therapeutic tools to promote health and well-being. The World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) 2012 define OT as the following:
“Occupational therapy is a client-centred 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.”
In a nutshell, OTs use activities to improve health and well-being. They work with all age groups and understand the concept of human occupation and behaviour. They understand activities, human function and the impact of the environment on individual abilities. OTs are interested in someone’s ability to participate and perform activities.
Our intervention is client-centred, where the person is always central to the rehabilitation programme. An individual’s medical diagnosis is used to guide our intervention and, ultimately, can influence the OTs speciality, as in the case of a neuro OT. However, fundamentally the intervention we provide as therapists is underpinned by some key principles.
- Occupation: they use day-to-day activities to improve health, well-being and abilities.
- Participation: they facilitate participation in activities regardless of disability.
- Doing: they focus on the person, specifically what they ‘want to do, need to do, expect to do’ taking into account our uniqueness, our choices and our responsibilities.
- Modification: they adopt a problem-solving approach, looking at current function, reviewing where the limitations lie and then looking to modify the activity or the environment.
Occupational Therapy and working with individuals
Putting occupational therapy theory into context is important to help us understand what an OT does.
Spend a few moments thinking about how you spend your time; think about a person that you enjoy spending time with. Try to think broadly, this could include your significant other, family, friend or an animal etc, and reflect on the activities you do with or for this person.
Think about yourself; think about an activity you love to do or something you feel accomplished at. Reflect on your life within the context of the activities you complete every day. Think about how you define yourself, who you are and how you view yourself and your abilities.
These factors are what an OT would also consider as part of their initial assessment.
Human function and engagement in activities from the viewpoint of an OT
Our relationships with others are related to the roles we have and hold as part of our day-to-day life. Roles are important as they give us meaning and purpose. Relationships with others gives us structure to our week, provides a social outlet or work activity and relates closely to how we spend our time.
The activities we do on a day-to-day basis are important. We do activities that make us feel good, like leisure and recreational activities, but more important are those activities relating to self-care. Personal care activities and domestic tasks are activities we have to do to look after ourselves, our home and possibly other people and / or pets.
We set up our environment to facilitate these activities and adopt roles that work for us and other people. We arrange and have access to homes, spaces, facilities and equipment. We structure the social environment to support us in achieving our goals, managing, relating and adapting to the expectations we place upon ourselves and those of others. We utilise our financial capability to allow us to access opportunities and structure the occupational environment to promote success with daily activities through routines, responsibilities and relationships.
The final element of human function is about how we view ourselves. This is really important and is grounded in our self-identify. Our self-identity feeds into how we view ourselves and is related to our confidence and competence. Social acceptance and the view of others is equally as important.
Neurological disability and the Neuro OT
Neuro OTs work with individuals who have sustained life-changing injuries. Living with an acquired brain injury can have a profound impact on an individual’s ability to engage in daily activities. Krysalis has spoken many of our clients regarding their experiences of living with acquired brain injury.
Penny speaks openly about the consequences of an acquired brain injury, the impact on her husband George and their family here.
The practicalities of completing an activity can be very difficult for someone with additional physical needs. This type of disability is visibly present and it is clear where the challenges lie. All of a sudden, the environment that an individual previously accessed to complete a wide number of activities, presents itself with barriers to independence.
Hidden disabilities in the form of cognitive and executive limitations, fatigue, sensory limitations and psychological consequences of an injury are not so easy to see or understand. These challenges can be equally as disabling, ranging from an inability to understand, organise or plan activities to suffering with overwhelming fatigue.
The psychosocial elements of living with a disability must not be ignored. Consideration must be given to the impact of a disability on how you view yourself and how others view you, including the consequences, hidden or otherwise on interpersonal relationships.
Many survivors of brain injury and individuals with long term neurological conditions are working hard to adjust to their new-found self. The role of a skilled neuro OT is to help them do this.
We hope you enjoyed this article.
GBIA comments: A highly recommended and experienced team of professionals who are client-focused and have in-depth understanding of the realities people face following brain injury. Krysalis bring an innovative and fresh approach to ensure that individuals achieve their occupational therapy goals.