What is Occupational Therapy and Why Do We Celebrate It?

What is Occupational Therapy?


Occupational Therapy


March 1917- Clifton Springs, NY- A group of three men and three women met  founded The National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy after discussing noteworthy concerns. This meeting is revered in the United States as the genesis of occupational therapy. Occupational Therapist (OT’s) and occupational therapy assistants (COTA’s) help people of all ages participate in meaningful tasks through the therapeutic use of activities of daily living (ADL’s) (occupations). Most people assume that occupational therapists assist in helping people find jobs due to societies normalized use of the term ‘occupation’. However, occupation can be defined as any activity that you are participating in. Occupational therapy (OT) interventions include helping children with disabilities develop skills and ADL’s in schools and communities, assisting people in the rehabilitation process after injury and/or illness, and providing aging adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes with durable medical equipment, adaptive equipment, support, and resources (AOTA, 2021).


The founders of occupational therapy were inspired to create a profession that would address the “adverse psychological and physical effects of mechanization.” By 1917, the United States transitioned to a heavily industrialized society. Although industrialization brought efficiency to factory work, serious injuries occurred as a result of operating heavy machinery and automobiles. Injured veterans and mental health patients were treated inhumanely. Furthermore, hospitalized patients were not treated to address residual impairments as a result of poor care and treatment procedures. During this time, arts and crafts clubs began to emerge throughout the United States to address the seemingly lost sense of pride in individualization and skilled workmanship due to factory work.



By 1918, Occupational therapy became instrumental in treating veterans who suffered from shell shock via meaningful therapeutic interventions. Although many veterans confused occupational therapy with handicrafts, the “primary purpose of occupational therapy is cure” as stated by William Dunton, one of the founding members. Dunton stated that it was imperative that interventions were interesting to the patient, were useful to their daily lives (ADL’s), and could be completed with others. Occupational therapy still holds these same values today.


According to The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), AOTA’s vision for 2025 states the following “As an inclusive profession, occupational therapy maximizes health, well-being, and quality of life for all people, populations, and communities through effective solutions that facilitate participation in everyday living.



Occupational therapists (OT) and occupational therapy assistants (COTA) love to help their clients increase their independence and participation in daily activities. OT’s can recommend general durable medical equipment (DME) to clients with mobility concerns. DME includes wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, upright walkers, walking canes, and quad canes. OT’s and OTA’s are also experts at recommending and training clients/caregivers how to use toileting equipment, bath chairs, shower seats, transfer chairs and countless other safety aids.


Ask an OT:

Since 1980, practitioners across United States celebrate Occupational Therapy Month and spread awareness about the profession during the month of April. As April comes to a close, HFT Medical would like to highlight this heartfelt profession by providing practicing OT’s a platform to discuss their experience. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with practicing occupational therapists and got a chance to ask them a few questions about their profession. Check out their responses below:


Rachel B, OTR/L 

1. What does Occupational Therapy mean to you?

Occupational therapy is not just a career, it is a calling. In this profession, you are able to work with patients who are often at their lowest points in life. As an OT, I have the privilege of assessing my patients not just physically but holistically. I look at their emotional health, social support, and backstory. I get to see them as a person completely separate from their disease, injury, or disability.  I work closely with them to provide resources, tools, and therapeutic interventions to help them achieve their maximum functional independence. The best part about occupational therapy, is that I am able to enhance my patients’ quality of life by facilitating treatments centered around  things that are meaningful to them.

2. What practice setting do you work in?

 I currently work in Outpatient (rehabilitation clinics) and Home Health.

3. Describe a heartfelt moment with one of your patients.

One of the most heartfelt moments I have had took place last year during COVID 19. I met a patient who was a 96 year old female hemiplegic. My focus of care for her was to increase her independence with feeding using adaptive utensils and increase her safety with transfers out of bed and to the bathroom. One day, I received an email from her daughter asking if there was anyway that I could connect my patient with her granddaughter in Germany. I quickly asked for the  granddaughter’s contact info and ended up setting up a video call via WhatsApp. The calls became frequent (once a week). I would often sit in my patient’s room after our sessions on my lunch break, so that my patient and her granddaughter could talk longer. They would talk about memories of staying up late at night together and cooking meals at home on snow days. During these calls, my patient was able to meet her great grandchildren for the first time virtually. Due to Covid, they were not allowed to travel from Germany. There were many tears and many emotions during these meetings. However, I was able to see how important and meaningful it was to my patient and to her family. My patient ended up transferring to hospice and passing a couple of months later,  but I was so thankful that she was able to get that time with her family. It was amazing to see something so small as a few video calls positively impacted her in her last stages of life.

4. If you could provide one piece of advice to all caregivers and families at this time, what would it be?

To the caregivers, please let your moral compass continue to guide your practices. Please strive to treat each patient the way you would want your loved one treated. Go the extra mile. In such a difficult time, this kind of healthcare is imperative.

To the families, please always feel comfortable to ask questions and be involved in therapy sessions (even if it is virtually). I have had plenty of sessions where I set up video calls so loved ones can engage and see what is taking place in therapy. We need your advice, your familiar voice, and tips to help us take the best care of your loved ones. Please don’t hesitate to call us for updates when you are worried. We are here. The therapy process is so much more meaningful and client centered when you are involved.


Karen G, OTR/L

1. What does Occupational Therapy mean to you?

Occupational therapy means assisting people live meaningful lives across the lifespan. Occupational therapy is unlike other professions in that our primary focus is providing a holistic and client-centered approach. Meaning we focus on not just a client’s physical abilities but also their mental health. It is like looking at the pieces of a puzzle individually that make up the final picture. Most importantly, clients and occupational therapists collaborate to focus on what is most meaningful to the client so that he or she can be as independent in their daily life.

2. What practice setting do you work in?

Currently, I work as school-based occupational therapist.

3. Describe a heartfelt moment with one of your patients.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I started working with a client virtually. My client was working on their first name. From March through May, we worked on sequencing and imitating each letter. After the summer, I began treating my client, and it was like a switch had been flipped. My client quickly progressed and was able to write their full name from memory within a couple of months. To see the amount of progress my client made and their parent’s emotion is something I will always hold close to my heart.

 4. If you could provide one piece of advice to all caregivers and families at this time, what would it be?

If I could give one piece of advice to all caregivers and families is that you are the expert on the individual that you are caring for. You are with the individual on a day-to-day basis, so trust your instincts. Most importantly, take care of yourself. Not only does the person you are caring for matter, but you do too!




Joy G, OTR/L

1. What does Occupational Therapy mean to you? 

Giving people of all ages the tools to live their lives to the fullest by enhancing independence and quality of life!

2. What practice setting do you work in? 

Pediatric outpatient clinic

3. Describe a heartfelt moment with one of your patients. 

The most recent moment was when I had a level 1 student and my client and his parents shared with my student and I how much their family values ,e and what I do for their son. It brought both my student and I to tears, and we couldn't hold it in lol! This is definitely a moment I'll always remember and cherish. 

4. If you could provide one piece of advice to all caregivers and families at this time, what would it be? 

You ARE doing a WONDERFUL job! Take it one day at a time, we are here for you to provide the tools for progress and your children thank you for all that you do


Becca V, COTA/L 

1. What does Occupational Therapy mean to you?

   Occupational therapy gives me the opportunity to make patients lives better by overcoming physical and/or mental conditions so they can live independent and fulfilling lives.

 2.What practice setting do you work in?

   I work in a geriatric SNF setting.

3. Describe a heartfelt moment with one of your patients.

   A heartfelt moment I’ve experienced with a patient includes providing ADL training to a nonverbal patient with advanced dementia. At the end of the session the patient unexpectedly said “thank you.”

4. If you could provide one piece of advice to all caregivers and families at this time, what would it be?

   The one piece of advice I would provide to caregivers and families during this unprecedented pandemic would be to stay connected by finding safe ways to spend time together, either in person or virtually. This will improve the care you provide for your aging loved ones.


FAQ’s about Occupational Therapy

How do I know if my loved one needs occupational therapy?

If you have concerns about your loved ones ability to participate in daily tasks due to their disability, as a result of injury or illness, or because they are aging, contact their doctor and address your concerns. Depending on the state you live in, an individual may request for an OT evaluation to be completed if you have valid concerns.

How can occupational therapy help me ‘Age in Place’?

Occupational therapists are experts in home modification. Their main goal is to ensure that their patient is able to complete daily, meaningful tasks in their natural environments. OT’s assess your home and help you plan and modify the environment depending on your needs. For example, if your balance and fall prevention is a concern, an OT may recommend specific bath chairs, shower seats, transfer chairs, upright walkers, walking canes to increase your stability.

 What settings do occupational therapists work in and what durable medical equipment are they experts on? 

Occupational therapist work in various settings such as skilled nursing facilities (SNF’s), home health, hospitals, outpatient clinics, and school-based settings. In all of these settings, occupational therapist assist with mobility, transfers, positioning, ADL’s (bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, and IADL’s (Instrumental activities of daily living). Occupational therapist are well versed in fitting and assisting clients with standard wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, upright walkers, walking canes, quad canes, bath chairs, transfer chairs, shower seats, safety aids, and assistive technology.


 HFT Medical would like to formally thank all of the contributing therapists! Your work does not go unnoticed and we are so honored to work with you all! 

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