Role of the Occupational Therapist

occupational therapist

This information about the role of an occupational therapist (OT) has been taken from information provided by College of Occupational Therapists, NHS Careers, Great Ormond Street Hospital.

What does an occupational therapist (OT) do?

Occupational therapy is the assessment and treatment of physical, psychological, social and environmental needs using specific, purposeful activity to prevent disability and help to increase people’s independence and satisfaction in all aspects of daily life.

The College of Occupational Therapists say that OTs can help with the everyday things in life when we have difficulty with these things.

Occupational therapy provides practical support to people with physical and mental illness, disability, long term condition, or those experiencing the effects of ageing, to do the things they need or want to do. It enables people of all ages to carry out practical and purposeful activities (often referred to as ‘occupation’). This could be essential day to day tasks - such as dressing, cooking, going shopping, to the things that make us who we are - our job, interests, hobbies and relationships.

OTs work closely with people to enable them to lead full and satisfying lives as independently as possible and achieve personal goals. This therapy offers valuable support and minimises the impact of disease and disability through the use of purposeful activity.


Examples of when an OT can help?

  • physical rehabilitation
  • mental health services
  • learning disability
  • primary care
  • paediatrics
  • environmental adaptation
  • care management
  • equipment for daily living.

Examples of how an OT can help?

  • Working with architects and builders to create accessible homes
  • Supporting children with dyspraxia or a disability with writing and classroom skills
  • Helping people with arthritis to return to work by developing a pain management programme
  • Providing activity programmes to stimulate and engage residents in nursing and care homes
  • Enabling people with disabilities to drive safely.

The starting point will be for the OT to make an assessment of what the client is able to do and prepare a treatment plan that describes the support they need.


Where do occupational therapists work?

Occupational therapists work in hospital and in the community. They work with people of all ages to help them overcome the effects of disability caused by physical or psychological illness, ageing or accident.

  • community centres
  • education establishments
  • GP practices / primary care
  • hospitals
  • housing associations
  • clients homes
  • industrial and commercial organisations
  • prisons
  • residential and nursing homes
  • social services and council departments
  • schools
  • charities and voluntary agencies.

Support roles are assistant practitioner/ occupational therapy assistants/ clinical support workers/ rehabilitation assistants/ technical instructors.


How can I find an Occupational Therapist?

Your GP will refer you to an occupational therapist if appropriate, or you may be advised to contact the social services department of your local council to arrange an occupational therapist home visit (Social work departments in Scotland / Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland).

You can find a private occupational therapist by searching the list of independent Occupational Therapy Practitioners at the College of Occupational Therapists.

College of Occupational Therapists
Education Department
106-114 Borough High Street
Tel: 020 7357 6480


Although this information is believed to be accurate, you are strongly advised to make your own independent enquiries.

December 2012