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Occupational Therapist

A professional who promotes health, enhances development, and increases independent functioning in people through activities involving work, play, and self-care.

Occupational therapists help persons with both physical and emotional problems as well as learning difficulties. Although occupational therapy was initially associated with reintegrating veterans of First and Second World Wars into the work force, the term "occupation" used in the context of this profession actually refers to any activity with which persons occupy their time. Occupational therapists focus on helping people master the everyday activities of life and work.

Occupational therapists undergo a rigorous training program. Four-year undergraduate programs, offered by many institutions, include courses in anatomy, psychology, and the theory and practice of occupational therapy. In addition, occupational therapists must complete six to nine months of clinical training. After graduation, most take a national examination to qualify as a Registered Occupational Therapist (R.O.T.). Occupational therapists work in various settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, schools, day care centers, and patients' homes.

Occupational therapists work with people who have mental and emotional problems. Their goal is to help clients cope with daily life, which may include teaching skills in self-care, cooking, shopping, and budgeting. They may help people suffering from depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder plan their day in order to function more effectively.

Further Reading

Breines, Estelle. Occupational Therapy Activities from Clay to Computers: Theory and Practice. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company, 1995.

Further Information

The American Occupational Therapy Association. 1383 Piccard Drive, P.O. Box 1725, Rockville, MD 20850.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaBranches of Psychology