Updated: Feb 14, 2019
The first question I get when I tell people I am an Occupational Therapist is:
“What exactly is an Occupational Therapist?”
Occupational therapy has been around since the early 1900s and in the past 100 years occupational therapy has continued to change it’s focus and what it offers. Our profession at times become lost in the medical realm, treating the body in the hopes this will translate into improved function and forgetting our original cause. Fortunately, occupational therapy is gradually returning to our namesake, occupation.
So then, what is an occupation?
Well an occupation is more than what you do for a living. Simply, an occupation is anything person wants to do, or needs to do in their life.
What are some occupations?
Well, the easiest way to think of occupations is to list all the things you had to do in a typical day. For this morning, I can think of….
· I slept (pretty relaxing occupation that)
· got out of bed
· had a shower
· got dressed
· had breakfast.
These are examples of self care tasks, anything a person needs to do to look after themselves and are all “occupations”.
Occupation can also be associated with being ‘productive’, all tasks that help our household, or our society – this includes working and learning (and for children, play!). Some of my examples are:
· Cleaned the kitchen
· Went to a meeting
· read a chapter of a text book
Then of course are the leisure tasks (my favourite !), these can be relaxing, social or physically active. Because what is life without fun?
· Called a friend
· listened to an audiobook
· went for a stroll.
So… what is it you do again?
Well as an occupational therapist I help people to do any occupation that is important to them. I could help someone in their 80s work out a safe way to get in and out of the shower by themselves, or help a child be able to write so that can learn at school, or help someone with mental illness re-connect with lost hobbies. The list is endless…
What occupations would you like help with?
Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. (1997). Enabling occupation: An occupational therapy perspective. Ottawa ON: CAOT Publications ACE
Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. (2007). Enabling occupation II: Advancing an occupational therapy vision for health, wellbeing, & justice through occupation. Ottawa ON: CAOT Publications ACE
Dunlop, W. (1933). A brief history of occupational therapy. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 1(1), 6-10