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What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy (OT) is a science degree-based, health and social care profession, regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council. Occupational Therapy takes a “whole-person approach” to both mental and physical health and wellbeing and enables individuals to achieve their full potential.

Image of Occupational Therapist with a service user

What Our Occupational Therapists say:


‘I’ve met some truly inspirational people’

‘I love the variety, the creativity and the problem solving – one day is never the same. In the world of equipment and adaptations you can really see the impact your involvement makes to people’s lives and it’s nice to feel like you’ve made a difference. I’ve met some truly inspirational people – clients, families and therapists over the years that have inspired me, challenged me professionally and helped keep me motivated through the ups and downs of my career.

In a previous role I provided a young Mum with a spinal injury and wheelchair user who had recently had a baby boy. She wanted to be able to play with him on the floor on his play mat. I provided a manger lifting cushion that she positioned next to her wheelchair to slide onto it and lower herself down to the floor level. A single piece of equipment made such a big difference to her enabling her to carry out her role as a Mum independently.’

‘It is extremely rewarding’

‘What I love about OT is that even after many years of working it is extremely rewarding knowing that you have made a difference to someone’s life.

What I enjoy about my job as an Occupational Therapist in Adult Social Care is the variety that the job entails. No two working days are alike and each day presents you with new challenges and problems to solve.

I have always enjoyed working with people and love the practical aspect of the job which allows OT’s to be creative in their approach to solving service users difficulties enabling them to regain independence.’

‘Building relationships with service users/patients and their families’

‘What I love about OT is the face to face contact and building relationships with service users/patients and their families. I enjoy being able to use my knowledge and experience whether it be simple or complex to help solve problems and enable service users/patients to gain independence.

Most service users I have worked with have immensely disliked the thought of using a bottom wiper. I remember one service user I worked with who had rheumatoid arthritis and really struggled with toileting. I remember showing her a bottom wiper and explaining to her its use, which was always a delight! Expecting that she would also dislike the thought of it. The next time I spoke with her I was amazed that she had not only got a bottom wiper, but she absolutely loved it and was thrilled at being able to do this task independently.’

What do Occupational Therapists do?

OTs work with people of all ages with a wide range of conditions; most commonly those who have difficulties due to a mental health illness, physical or learning disabilities. They are employed in many settings including health, social care, housing, education, voluntary organisations or as independent practitioners. They assist people of all ages overcome the effects of disability caused by illness, ageing or accident so that they can carry out everyday tasks – what OTs call “occupations”.

It is helpful to understand what is meant by “occupation”. As humans we are occupational beings - we all occupy time and space. An occupation is anything we do from the most basic needs such as breathing, swallowing, eliminating and sleeping, simple everyday tasks such as personal care, budgeting, meal preparation and so forth to the most complex of tasks we do – playing a musical instrument, driving, work we do as a student, employee or volunteer. Think of all the “occupations” you do and how having an illness or disability might impact on your ability to execute them effectively. Being able to execute the tasks you need to do is what we call “occupational performance”.

We also have “occupational roles” – these are all the roles you have in life, for example you may be a son or daughter, brother or sister, wife, husband or partner, mother or father, friend, employee, employer, colleague, volunteer. So you can see that illness, disability or accidents could also impact on your “occupational performance” i.e. your ability to participate in or enjoy your “occupational roles”. That’s where OTs come in – we conduct a holistic assessment, focusing on what is meaningful and purposeful to the individual and provide treatment and/or interventions to enable them to reach their goals.

Image of an Occupational Therapist

‘we can make such a positive difference to people’s lives’

‘I enjoy looking at the ‘whole picture’ of the person and enabling them to achieve their own personal goals. I like the fact that as OTs we have the time to listen and that we can make such a positive difference to people’s lives. Recently, working on a hospital ward, I enabled a lady to have a wash in the bathroom rather than at the bedside. She said it made her feel so much better.’

‘Everyday is Different’

‘I love the fact that every day is different but especially the people and families that we meet and that we can encourage and make significant or even small changes to improve their lives. We can see people at the worst of times but also at the best. I enjoy the practical options we can suggest to improve independence but also how our involvement can have a  psychological impact to the quality of life of an individual but also often for the whole family. I often feel the ability to listen is often a simple skill that can have an immediate impact.

However as an OT with a housing interest just having an accessible property can instantly minimise some of the limitations an environment can cause and make someone able and not disabled by their home.’