The role of an occupational therapist and how they can help you

Occupational therapists work with people of all abilities and ages to do what they want or need to do, through the use of therapeutic activities and equipment.

According to Occupational Therapy Australia (, OTs find ways people or their family member to do tasks more easily in all parts of their lives.

This includes:

  • at home
  • at work or school
  • having fun
  • out and about
  • driving
  • being part of the community

OTs do this through asking and seeing what you can do. When they know about your movement and strength in any particular activity, OTs can give you advice about how best to do something more easily and safely.

OTs can also prescribe, if necessary, devices to help you do the activities you want and need. They will make sure you can use the device in the best way to meet your needs. This means that you will get a total solution and not just a product.

OTs can develop a personal care support profile (including pressure care) to instruct direct care workers about how to safely support you and respect your preferences in your daily life.

Occupational therapy for children

Occupational therapy promotes normal development and stimulates learning in children with specific learning difficulties, physical disabilities, delayed development or those recovering from illness or injury.

Working with children, their families and teachers, occupational therapists aim to improve the child’s quality of life by helping them to participate in play, preschool, school and home activities.

Occupational therapy for young people

Teenagers with social and lifestyle problems, or disabilities resulting from an accident or disease, can maximise their independence and quality of life into adulthood with the help of an occupational therapist.

Occupational therapy for adults and seniors

When an adult or an older person is affected by an illness, accident or workplace injury, an occupational therapist can help them on the road to recovery.

They may assist with the return to home and work life through the development of new skills for daily living, such as household tasks and personal care, return-to-work or leisure programs.

They may also make or facilitate changes to the work or home environment to make life easier and safer.

Occupational therapy in mental health

Occupational therapists also assist adults who are experiencing psychological or emotional difficulties.

They can help a person to develop better ways to deal with mental illness in the context of day-to-day activities, managing work and emotional problems. They work with other health professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and doctors.

Occupational therapy in the workplace

Occupational therapists play an important role in helping workers return to work following an injury or illness, including stress.

Their role in the workplace covers:

  • Injury management and rehabilitation – including worksite assessments, injury risk assessments, occupational rehabilitation counselling and early intervention rehabilitation
  • Injury prevention – including manual-handling assessments, claims history reviews, ergonomic assessments, development of alternate duties, work-conditioning programs and the redesign of workplaces
  • Training – in areas like stress management, manual handling, back care, safe work practices, the introduction of new equipment, work-station adjustments and developing pause exercises, where you take a break for exercise at work.
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