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What is occupational therapy anyway?

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

by: Carleen Paprocki, M.S., OTR/L

“Occupation” in my title doesn't exactly mean job. It pertains to those meaningful things you do that occupy your time throughout the day such as caring for your children, leisure/sports activities like golf, working out, gardening, socializing and getting together with friends, or even simple daily tasks such as getting dressed or cooking a meal.

Occupational therapists are experts in empowering people with the knowledge and skills to reach their goals and live their best life. My objective as an OT is to work closely with you to figure out what areas of occupation you can’t do or aren't doing and determine the reasons why. Then, we work together to write your goals and develop a strategic plan to achieve those goals. OTs guide you through the steps of your plan towards reaching your goals. So, while the word "occupation" in my title doesn't exactly mean job and is so much broader than that, I could, for example, help you remove personal factors and other barriers while empowering you to develop the skills and knowledge needed to land that amazing job. But, there are many other things that I can help you with : )

We are very unique as individuals as well as a profession. We are occupational performance experts with a deep understanding of human psychology and the human body, activity performance, factors that impact performance, skills and performance patterns, as well as internal factors (inside the person) and external factors (outside the person e.g. environment, time, culture, social) impacting performance. While some of the therapy we provide may look similar to other professions, it's coming through the unique lens of our profession.

Every therapist has a bit of a different background and flavor, so to speak. We work in many different treatment settings and with a variety of patient populations. Some examples of settings you'll find OTs are schools, nursing homes, mental health facilities, hospitals, private practice and more. In addition, we infuse our personal knowledge and interests into our careers and treatments. That's what makes each of us so unique and can drastically change the patient experience between therapists. For example, I have significant experience in treating musculoskeletal impairments, but also have significant knowledge and experience with mind body work such as guided relaxation and reiki. I also have the unique opportunity to have my studio at a horse barn and am able to use horses with my treatments. So, my treatments and treatment plans may be infused with mind body work in addition to exercise, manual therapy, use of traditional modalities, ground work or grooming with the horses and more.

Two broad categories occupational therapists specialize in are rehabilitation (restoring your body from an impairment) and wellness (promoting the prevention of impairments and your health) so you can live your best life. More specifically, OTs:

-Rehabilitate physiological, psychological, neurological, or biological impairments

-Adapt tasks, processes, environments, or teach different ways to enhance performance.

-Prevent disabilities with techniques to perform skills safely

-Promote health so you can live your best life.

Confused yet? I get it! My career truly is so broad. But, that's the best part! I have a vast array of knowledge and skills that I am able to use to empower you to live your best life.

Namaste : )


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