Occupational therapy is a field of medicine that seems to be surrounded by an air of mystery to some people. It’s not a simple practice to describe, for sure, which can make explaining it to uninformed people a little difficult. We hope that this article clears up some of the most common misunderstandings about occupational therapy and how it’s applied in practice.
Here are some common misconceptions about occupational medicine, and the truth behind the myths.
5 Common Misconceptions About Occupational Therapy
Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy Are the Same Thing
Perhaps the most common misconception about occupational therapy is that it’s the exact same thing as physical therapy. Although both practices aim to improve a patient’s quality of life, there are a few key differences. The simplest way to define the difference between the two is that physical therapy focuses on general physical abilities, while occupational therapy focuses on performing everyday tasks.
- Physical therapy tends to focus on improving strength, endurance, and general motor skills – such as walking, running, or lifting objects.
- Occupational therapy focuses on fine motor skills in order to perform everyday household or work-related tasks – such as dressing yourself, eating with cutlery, or using a keyboard or mouse.
Occupational Therapy Is Only about Getting You Back to Work
Another extremely common misconception is that occupational therapy is only related to workplace injuries or disabilities. While many patients do seek OT for work-related injuries or ailments, occupational therapy seeks to assist patients with all types of daily activities, including:
- Self-Care Activities: Dressing yourself, bathing yourself, etc.
- Leisure Activities: Being able to continue doing the things you love, even after an injury or disability
- Specific Workplace Skills: Typing, using hand tools, lifting or carrying objects, etc.
One of occupational therapy’s main goals is to promote, maintain, and restore the functional independence of patients by giving them the ability to perform everyday activities, whether at work, home, or in public.
Occupational Therapists Only Care for the Elderly or Disabled
Many people seem to think that occupational therapy only treats disabled patients or the elderly. The truth is that OT treats patients of all ages and abilities, from all walks of life. Some conditions that OTs commonly work with include:
- Brain Injuries
- Cerebral Palsy
- Developmental Disabilities
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Spinal Injuries
- Work-related Injuries
Some examples of patients whom OTs may work with include:
- Babies showing difficulty with developing fine motor skills
- School-age children struggling with learning how to write
- A young adult who broke their wrist in a workplace accident
- A stroke victim re-learning how to feed themselves
From newborn babies all the way to the elderly, occupational therapists work with patients from all stages of life.
Occupational Therapists Only Work in a Medical Setting
Although it’s commonly thought that occupational therapists only work in a medical setting, the truth is that OTs can work almost anywhere. While many OTs do work in private clinics, nursing homes, and hospitals, other places they may work include:
- School Districts – OTs are able to assist children, teens, and young adults to ensure that they can participate in the full range of school activities.
- At-Home Health Care – OTs can treat patients in their own home in order to meet their needs and help them learn how to perform everyday activities.
- Private Companies – OTs may be employed by private companies in order to address employees’ needs and reduce the risk of work-related injuries through education of proper body mechanics, identifying potential hazards or injury risks, and making adjustments to create a more ergonomic workplace.
Occupational Therapy Treatment Is Repetitive and Unchanging
One of the most rewarding aspects of being an occupational therapist is that you work with patients of all ages, abilities, and walks of life.
Here’s an example of how varied an OT’s work week can be:
- One day, you may be in a nursing home, helping a patient with worsening arthritis re-learn how to feed themselves.
- The next day, you may be in your private practice working with a young adult, helping them re-learn how to hold and manipulate small objects after hand surgery.
- And the day after that, you may be at a patient’s home, teaching a child with cerebral palsy how to dress themselves or tie their shoes.
Every patient has different treatment needs, so OTs are constantly challenged with developing effective treatment regimens to meet those needs.
Eager to Discover How Occupational Healthcare Can Help You, Your Loved Ones, or Your Employees?
At Colorado Occupational Medical Partners, our mission is to deliver the highest quality of occupational health care and physical rehabilitation to return patients to their highest level of function. Our team is dedicated to employers and patients, and we strive to develop strong, positive relationships with a culture based on safety, transparency, empathy, and trust. In addition to our occupational health services, we also provide health screenings, drug & alcohol tests, physicals, and vaccinations. To find out more, find our location closest to you.
Let Colorado Occupational Medical Partners be your source for occupational therapies and care in Colorado.