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What is Occupational Therapy and Who Does it Help?

If you have ever had to recover from a serious illness, fall, or hospitalization, you may be familiar with occupational therapy (OT) or physical therapy (PT). 

But you may think occupational therapy is only for work-related injuries or therapy designed to get you back to work. The reality is, occupational therapy is much more than that.

Let’s take a deeper look at what occupational therapy is all about.

Occupational Therapy vs Physical Therapy

Consider this scenario: You have an injury that requires hospitalization. Before you are released from the hospital, you may receive a visit from an occupational therapist who will make sure you are able to get out of bed, use the restroom, and be able to function independently at home.

Once released, you may need to follow up with a physical therapist to work on motor function to regain “normal” use. But some might experience additional struggles related to the injury. In those instances, occupational therapy can do so much more by taking a 360-degree approach to your health, independence, and well-being.

SitrinInfographic OT vs PT

What is OT?

Providing an occupational therapy definition is not easy. First, it’s important to define what “occupations” are. To occupational therapists, occupations are what you do to survive, which can include:

  • Getting out of bed

  • Going to the restroom

  • Getting washed and dressed for the day

  • Getting back to work

  • Cooking a meal

  • Doing the things we do every day to survive and live independently

The main difference between OT and PT is this: 

  • Physical therapy can help you get from point A to point B.

  • Occupational therapy can help you with the activities you need to do when you get to point A or point B.

Sitrin PT walker

For instance: 

  • PT helps you successfully navigate from your kitchen to your living room.

  • OT helps you successfully sit and eat a meal in your kitchen or turn on the television in your living room.

Sitrin OT and guy

There is some overlap between the two practices. Physical therapists and occupational therapists both work on functional abilities like walking, but occupational therapists will look at movement in terms of how your functional abilities affect the tasks or occupations you need to complete. 

In other words, occupational therapists will help an individual solve a mobility issue by using adaptive equipment to successfully complete a task.

What Tools Do Occupational Therapists Use During OT?

You’re recovering from an injury and you need to use a walker to get from point A to point B. You mastered that in physical therapy.

But how will you be able to carry an egg from the fridge to the stovetop, and then cook the egg once you get there, all while using a walker?

Part of an occupational therapist's role is to figure out what day-to-day challenges an individual may have, find adaptive equipment that will help, and teach the individual how to use it. Most occupational therapists look at the whole person and the whole picture, asking questions like:

  • What disease does the individual have?

  • What is the progress of the disease?

  • What abilities does the individual have (including range of motion and strength)?

  • What is the living environment like and what can we do to help them succeed in that environment?

Occupational therapists look for adaptive equipment that will help individuals carry out and complete everyday tasks.


The more an occupational therapist knows about the individual’s life, day-to-day activities, and goals, the more assistance the occupational therapist can provide. 

Who Benefits From Occupational Therapy? 

The simple answer is that OT benefits anyone and everyone. Occupational therapy helps newborns, senior citizens, and everyone in between. 

In fact, occupational therapists work in schools, hospitals, independent living communities, senior living facilities, outpatient clinics, and more, with many specialty areas within OT, including: 

  • Early intervention

  • Sensory regulation

  • Seating/positioning (e.g. custom wheelchair fitting)

  • Geriatrics

  • Driving rehabilitation

  • Ergonomics

  • Mental health

  • Vision 

  • Pediatrics

  • Hand Therapy

  • Spinal Cord Injury

  • Pelvic Floor

  • Adaptive Sports

  • Adaptive Technology

Whether they are showing adults how to successfully complete daily tasks or helping infants roll over and sit up when they should be hitting those milestones, occupational therapists play a vital role in enhancing the quality of life for people of all ages and abilities. They are skilled in addressing physical, cognitive, emotional, and developmental challenges, making them an invaluable resource for individuals with various conditions or disabilities. 

Sitrin adaptive equip

What OT Can Do For You or Your Loved Ones

Occupational therapy can help individuals return to work or school, but it also helps with day-to-day activities and more. The goal of a comprehensive OT program is to gain back independence in order to successfully perform daily tasks.

The expertise of an occupational therapist extends beyond conventional therapy settings; occupational therapists can also provide guidance in adapting environments to better suit individuals' needs, ensuring greater independence and overall well-being. Their versatility and dedication make occupational therapists an indispensable support system for anyone seeking to overcome obstacles and achieve their full potential in daily living activities.

If you or a loved one could benefit from the support and expertise of an occupational therapy program, reach out today to learn more. At Sitrin, our dedicated team is here to help. Whether you're seeking assistance for yourself, a family member, or a friend, we offer personalized and compassionate care to meet your unique needs. Contact us today!


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