What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

Generally, an occupational therapist prepares rehabilitative programs for disabled individuals to help them restore basic functions needed for daily life. If you're interested in helping people who have disabilities and want to learn more about what an occupational therapist does, keep reading. Schools offering Occupational Therapy Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Occupational therapists use various methods of treatment to help patients who have physical, mental, emotional, or developmental disabilities. In this field, you may work with individuals suffering from both short-term and long-term impairments with the goal of improving conditions to advance their quality of life. This may include helping an individual with tasks related to every day life and to his or her occupation. In your work, you will combine aspects from a variety of disciplines, including medicine, psychology, and sociology, to evaluate and implement comprehensive plans for patients. Occupational therapists may work within one sub-field, specializing in the rehabilitation of a particular demographic, or see clients with varying needs. Some of the most common sub-fields include:


You may work with elderly patients who suffer from age-related conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease, hip replacements, low vision, and arthritis. In the case of a patient with Alzheimer's disease, you will evaluate the individual and make recommendations for adjustments to his or her lifestyle to increase function and safety. You may also educate family members on care and recommend home modifications, like bathroom safety aids. Your work with arthritis patients may focus on recommending assistive devices for ease of movement and comfort. You may also teach patients physical exercises to relieve pain and coping methods for improvement of psychological stress.


You can assist children with disabilities, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism, through providing personalized plans to address behavioral, emotional, and mental issues. By working with parents and schools, you can increase levels of engagement, communication, and focus for children suffering from these types of disorders to improve overall quality of life and increase chances of success for the future.

Physical Disabilities

There are a broad range of physical disabilities, including lower back pain, spinal cord injury, and stroke, that may hinder an individual's ability to function in life and that you can help as an occupational therapist. You can evaluate physical abilities and set goals for improvement using therapeutic methods, like exercises and aids, or address mental and emotional issues following injury, such as low self-esteem and motivation. You may work with families of disabled patients to provide education for proper support and care. Evaluating and implementing changes in an individual's workplace for facilitation of reentry may also be part of your job duties.

Mental Disabilities

You may work with patients who suffer from substance abuse, mood disorders, or depression to enable them to better handle life on a day-to-day basis. Often, you may work in tandem with physicians and other health care providers to provide support for patients suffering from mental disabilities. Job duties may involve conducting evaluations, designing preventative measures, assessing relapse probability, and recording responses to medication. Working with families of patients, you may provide education and recommend involvement in treatment, such as group support meetings. You may help patients and loved ones understand realistic treatment goals and implement management methods to better handle routine matters, such as money management and household chores.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the employment of occupational therapists is expected to grow by 29% between 2012 and 2022, a rate faster than the average growth predicted among all occupations. The BLS also reported the median annual salary earned by such specialists as $75,400 in May 2012.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:

Popular Schools

  • Penn Foster Career School

    Penn Foster Career School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster Career School:

    Online Programs Available

  • Sanford-Brown

    Sanford-Brown responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Sanford-Brown:

    Campus-Based Programs Available:

    View All Locations
    • Florida: Jacksonville, Tampa
    • Texas: Dallas, Houston, San Antonio
  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Capella University

    Capella University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Capella University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Steiner Education Group

    Steiner Education Group responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Steiner Education Group:

    • Certificates

    Campus-Based Programs Available:

    View All Locations
    • Arizona: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Tucson
    • Colorado: Aurora, Westminster
    • Connecticut: Groton, Newington, Westport
    • Florida: Maitland, Miami, Pinellas Park, Pompano Beach
    • Illinois: Chicago, Crystal Lake, Joliet
    • Massachusetts: Watertown
    • Maryland: Linthicum
    • New Jersey: Hoboken, Wall Township
    • Nevada: Las Vegas
    • Pennsylvania: King of Prussia, York
    • Texas: Houston, Richardson
    • Utah: Lindon, Salt Lake City
    • Virginia: Charlottesville
    • Washington: Federal Way, Seattle
  • Western Governors University

    Western Governors University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Western Governors University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

 More Schools