What is Occupational Therapy?

What is Occupational Therapy?

Many people may have heard of Occupational Therapy or maybe know an Occupational Therapist but don’t really understand what Occupational Therapy (OT) is exactly. In this section I will try my level best to explain what Occupational Therapy is in very simple terms.


The American Occupational Therapy Association executive board (1976) defined Occupational Therapy as:  “The therapeutic use of work, self-care, and play activities to increase development and prevent disability. It may include adaptation of task or environment to achieve maximum independence and to enhance the quality of life.”

First, let’s define the word ‘occupation’, which is the root of Occupational Therapy as a profession.  So the dictionary definition of occupation is; an activity engaged in especially as a means of passing time; a vocation.

The Occupational Therapy school of thought then divides our means of passing time into three categories namely;  self-care, leisure and work.


Means of passing time Adults Children 
1. Self-care sleeping, eating, grooming, dressing and toileting sleeping, eating, grooming, dressing and toileting
2. work Paid or non-paid work school work for children, homework, handwriting tasks, listening to teacher, following instructions etc.
3. Leisure time spent on activities they enjoy e.g. a hobby, TV, socializing, sports, “chilling out”, reading, writing, listening to music, travel ling Free play time



If you reflect on this information you will notice that any task that you perform at any time will fall into any one of these three categories.

The Dictionary defines ‘therapy’ as the treatment of disease or disorders, as by some remedial, rehabilitating, or curative process.

At any point in our lives (whether present at birth or at a later time), illness, injury or disability may prevent us from effectively or independently functioning in one or more “occupational” areas (leisure/play, work/school work and self-care).

The Occupational Therapist is specially trained to provide intervention which will help you regain function and reach your optimum level of independence in performing your daily living tasks (work, play/leisure and self-care).

Because each individual and family is unique, Occupational Therapy treatment programs will vary from person to person according to their individual needs.