- Brief History of Occupational Therapy
- Development Of Current Occupational Therapy
- Difference Between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy
- What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?
- National Occupational Therapy Month
- How To Observe Occupational Therapy Month?
- Final Thought
Did you know that April is Occupational Therapy Month here in the U.S.? Occupational Therapy Month is all about celebrating the holistic approach that occupation therapists have brought to healthcare. While patients of all ages benefit from occupational therapy for acute and chronic health conditions, many people do not understand what occupational therapists do. That is why having a dedicated month to celebrate occupational therapy brings awareness to a discipline that helps so many people lead better lives.
BRIEF HISTORY OF OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY
Occupational therapy (OT) has a difficult past to pin down. In the 18th century, patients suffering from mental illnesses were considered a threat to society. The majority of those affected were simply stuck in prison and hidden from society. As human rights causes and moral treatment came onto the scene, more humane systems for treating mental diagnoses developed. By the 1800s, the benefit of occupational engagement was understood more and more. ADL (activities of daily life) and IADL (instrumental activities of daily life) participation was encouraged alongside arts and crafts.
Psychiatrist and educator William Rush Dunton Jr., known as “the father of occupational therapy”, was a strong advocate for occupational engagement and eventually formed the National Society for Promotion of Occupational Therapy (now known as AOTA). This allowed for more clients to receive therapy services. However, from the start, OT did not fit neatly into the medical model. Instead of simply copying physical therapy’s treatment approach, it pulled from many different places to develop the most beneficial way to functionally help clients. This involved aspects of physical therapy, nursing care, social work, psychiatry, orthopedics, and more. Immediately, OT stood out as a unique and holistic practice.
At this point, OT was more holistic than ever, but there was a lack of evidence-based practice, and treatments were not fully understood. Then in 1915, Eleanor Clark Slagle organized the first educational program for occupational therapists. This proved to be a major turning point in occupational therapy’s development and recognition as a legitimate medical field.
DEVELOPMENT OF CURRENT OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY
World War I was a pivotal time for the development of occupational therapy. The US military recognized the benefit of providing OT services to those dealing with mental health and physical dysfunction challenges. During this and the subsequent second World War, a great push was made for therapy services to be provided to wounded soldiers. It was during this time that a drastic shift was made from simply utilizing arts and crafts to using activities of daily living in the treatment of a variety of conditions. This push and advancement greatly served to solidify the value of therapy on the world scene.
As OT became more established, the profession and its principles continued to spread around the world. The implementation of occupational therapy assistants also served as a catalyst, greatly increasing the availability and ease of access to OT services. The mindset of occupational therapists continued to grow, broadening to include several additional treatment modalities. This form of therapy now leads the industry in the study and treatment of sensory integration dysfunctions.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY AND PHYSICAL THERAPY
Physical and occupational therapy are often confused because their modalities are similar. The main difference is that OT focuses on everyday tasks that people may need or want to do. For example, an occupational therapist may help someone recovering from an accident learn how to resume their daily routines, such as brushing their teeth, walking upstairs, or even getting into a car while pediatric occupational therapists may help children improve motor skills so that they can complete schoolwork or engage in play. In all, occupational therapy teaches you how to adapt.
By contrast, physical therapy assists with pain relief as well as restoring mobility and range of motion. Often, physical therapy patients are individuals recovering from an injury, people who have been in an accident, or patients with a chronic or degenerative condition.
WHAT DOES AN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST DO?
Common OT interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from an injury to regain skills, and providing support for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive challenges. Other services typically include:
- Helping children with mental challenges such as autism spectrum disorder and physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy to participate fully in school and social situations.
- Keeping older drivers safe and independent in their vehicles by providing in-car assessments, recommendations for adaptive equipment, and appropriate self-restrictions.
- Offering clients who are recovering from a stroke to resume independence in bathing, dressing, and cooking a meal.
- Helping people recovering from injury to regain skills necessary to return to work.
- Providing support for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.
- Evaluating older adults’ homes to promote safety and prevent falls.
- Helping wounded veterans overcome physical injuries such as limb loss, and mental challenges such as TBI and PTSD, and reintegrate into the community.
OT services may also include comprehensive evaluations of the client’s home and other environments (e.g., workplace, school), recommendations for adaptive equipment and training in its use, and guidance and education for family members and caregivers.
NATIONAL OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY MONTH
Occupational therapy is the only profession that helps people across their lifespan do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities. Occupational therapy practitioners enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and prevent—or live better with—injury, illness, or disability. Since its founding, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) represents the professional interests and concerns of more than 213,000 therapists, assistants, and students nationwide. During the National Occupational Therapy Month, AOTA educates the public and advances the profession of occupational therapy by providing resources, setting professional and educational standards, and serving as an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion to improve health care.
AOTA affirms the inalienable right of every individual to feel welcomed, valued, a sense of belonging, and respected while accessing and participating in society, regardless of the internal or external factors that make every individual unique. The theme for this year’s National Occupation Therapy Month is “Empowering Everyday Lives”. Furthermore, it is also important to note that this year’s World Occupational Therapy Day will be on October 27th.
HOW TO OBSERVE OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY MONTH?
It is important to acknowledge the efforts of OT practitioners. Take this day as an opportunity to thank occupational therapists who bring light to people’s lives and help them lead normal lives. You can write a brief letter of gratitude or thank you notes or you can turn to social media to acknowledge the OT practitioners. Additionally, make sure to educate yourself about the profession. This month can be a perfect time to learn about the holistic benefits. You can search for resources on what practitioners do, how they are trained, the scope of the profession, and the rationale behind their interventions.
Lastly, don’t forget to spread the word. Promote OT and let more people know about it. Share information with your family, friends, and colleagues. Use the power of social media to spread the word and don’t forget to use the hashtag #OTMonth!
In summary, occupational therapy is a science-driven, evidence-based profession that enables people to live their lives regardless of any disabilities. OT can assist a person’s psychological, physical, emotional, and social make-up. However you choose to celebrate Occupation Therapy Month, you can feel proud to support a profession that makes a positive difference in our world. As awareness of OT grows, more people will know how to seek treatment for themselves or their loved ones. Has occupational therapy impacted you or a loved one? What has your experience been like? Please feel free to share your thoughts down below!