Apr. 7, 2022

Recognizing Occupational Therapy Month in April

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Occupational Therapy Month recognizes and celebrates the holistic approach that Occupational Therapy (OT) brings to healthcare. The awareness event started in 1980 by the American Occupational Therapy Association to acknowledge the significant, meaningful, and impactful work of the field has provided over the 100 years.

The History of Occupational Therapy

There are references to this type of therapy prior to that in Greek writings. For example, National Today cites two Greek physicians who incorporated OT options into their treatments. "Back then, there was no name for the practice, though," said the National Today site. "A Greek physician, Asclepiades used massages, exercises, baths, and music to heal stress and soothe patients' minds. There was another Greek physician, Celsus, who used conversation, travel, and music to treat his patients."

The first association dedicated to furthering the practice of occupational therapy was founded in the 1800s by William Rush Dunton Jr. His organization called the National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy evolved into what is known as the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). Dunton is often times referred to as "the father of OT" because he published the first account of OT being considered a profession. It was until 1915 that Eleanor Clarke Slagle organized the first educational program for people wanting to become occupational therapists in Chicago. That's when the profession got recognized as a specific medical field. Formalized evidence-based practice took off and treatments were designed to help those with severe mental health issues by promoting engagement in meaningful tasks.

What is Occupational Therapy?

OT helps people better incorporate everyday activities into their lives. Examples include therapy sessions around getting dressed, organizing a backpack, holding a pencil, writing, throwing, and catching, along with many other common tasks. While physical therapy focuses on improving the actual movements that a person does to complete an action, OT is concerned with helping a person perform these tasks more easily. OT can teach people how to adapt to their personal needs and help them improve their quality of life.

People who may need OT services could include:

  • Children with disabilities to full participate in activities at home, at school or in the community
  • Someone who has suffered an injury so they can regain skills
  • Older adults who may experience physical and cognitive changes

A first visit to see your occupational therapist will include an individualized evaluation where goals will be determined. The therapist will come up with a customized plan to help the person perform daily tasks. Throughout the process, evaluations will be completed to ensure goals are met. If changes need to be made, the therapist and patient will work together to revamp their therapy plan and change the focus of their efforts.

How Can I Raise Awareness About Occupational Therapy?

Acknowledge the contributions of Occupational Therapy Practitioners. You can write a short note saying thank you to those medical professionals who help others through this profession.

Education Yourself About the Profession. If you're interested in becoming an occupational therapist, explore their educational path.

Spread the Word. Share details on social media and use #OTMonth or #OccupationalTherapyMonth.

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