What is Occupational Therapy?

OT student with child

Occupational therapy is the art and science of helping individuals and families develop purposeful activities (occupations) that improve the overall quality of their lives.

The philosophical base of occupational therapy has led to the evolution of many definitions of our practice. Some of these definitions are listed here to assist students in understanding and explaining to others the practice of occupational therapy.

"Occupational therapy is the art and science of helping people do the day-to-day activities that are important and meaningful to their health and well-being through engagement in valued occupations."
- Willard & Spackman's Occupational Therapy, 12th edition Schell, Gillen & Scaffa (Eds.)(2014)

"In its simplest terms, occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations)."  
- American Occupational Therapy Association (2015)

"Occupational therapy is a client-centered health profession concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement."
- World Federation of Occupational Therapy (2012)

"Occupational therapy is the therapeutic use of everyday life activities (occupations) with individuals or groups for the purpose of enhancing or enabling participation in roles, habits, and routines in home, school, workplace, community, and other settings. Occupational therapy practitioners use their knowledge of the transactional relationship among the person, his or her engagement in valuable occupations, and the context to design occupation-based intervention plans that facilitate change or growth in client factors (body functions, body structures, values, beliefs, and spirituality) and skills (motor, process, and social interaction) needed for successful participation." 
- American Occupational Therapy Association (2013)
Occupational Therapy Practice Framework, 3rd edition

"The practice of occupational therapy means the therapeutic use of occupations, including everyday life activities with individuals, groups, populations, or organizations to support participation, performance, and function in roles and situations in home, school, workplace, community, and other settings. Occupational therapy services are provided for habilitation, rehabilitation, and the promotion of health and wellness to those who have or are at risk for developing an illness, injury, disease, disorder, condition, impairment, disability, activity limitation, or participation restriction. Occupational therapy addresses the physical, cognitive, psychosocial, sensory-perceptual, and other aspects of performance in a variety of contexts and environments to support engagement in occupations that affect physical and mental health, wellbeing, and quality of life."
- American Occupational Therapy Association (2013)
Definition of Occupational Therapy Practice for State Regulation

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