Occupational therapy is utilized to help assist individuals that are having complications carrying out their daily tasks be it at work or home.
Many people confuse occupational therapy and physical therapy for good reason. But what really distinguishes Occupational therapy from physical therapy in that occupational therapist work to help the patient create a supportive environment. This environment should be conducive to the patient accomplishing the goals they need to achieve to complete specific tasks. PT works more closely with the physical rehabilitation of the body while occupational therapists focus more on accomplishing specific tasks.
The role that occupational therapy contributes to a patient’s journey with a disease state varies. For example, you may wonder why a person with any cognitive disorder like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia will play. In cases of cognitive impairment, an occupational therapist can help a patient to work through some coordination problems so that they may be able to function and accomplish tasks more easily. Occupational therapy promotes the idea that the brain can relearn neuro motor skills. This is achieved by retraining the brain and a new neurogenic pathway is forged therby allowing a patient to be retrained. These are fascinating times for healthcare professionals working with those with brain injuries.
You may also see an occupational therapist working in an assisted living facility. The primary goal there is to help the people living there with any problems they may have completing some task. It may be as simple as taking a shower without falling down. So the OT can prescribe a device to be used in the shower that may help with stabalization for example. There are so many scenarios, but you can see that the need for OT’s is tremendous and the scope of their work is wide.
In nursing homes OTs provid their services to aging patients that have had a severe injury. The patient can be helped with occupational therapy treatment for difficulty solving problems, balance, perception issues and assisting with anger management. Elderly patients find these sessions to be rewarding many times. Although dealing with elderly people and their degenerating physiology can be quite depressing. If you are the type of person that can handle working with and caring for individuals that may not even know where they are then you may be perfect in this situation. It doesn’t take much to understand why there is such a demand for occupational therapy services.
An interesting area in which occupational therapy is utilized is chronic pain management. At first it seems odd to think you would need an occupational therapist to help manage chronic pain. But chronic pain is a tricky issue. Assessing real pain versus imagined pain is virtually impossible. So an OT will do an assessment of what may be triggering the pain signals. If it is a person drinking cold water and then feeling as if their entire jaw is in excruciating pain then the Occupational therapist will work with the patient to keep them from drinking cold water. That is a very simplistic example, but you get the point. In a broader context, the OT uses the patient’s belief that they can decrease the amount of pain they are feeling. It is similar to the placebo effect. A perceived reduction in pain is a real reduction in pain. Occupational therapy techniques also incorporate many methods that some would consider non traditional such as yoga, meditation, and other hypnosis type treatments.
One other interesting theory that OTs incorporate into their therapy for treating pain is the understanding of how our brain processes pain signalling. Specifically, there are cells in the spinal cord called the dorsal horn cells that are the gate through which sensory messaging is received. If these dorsal horn cells are damaged they may distort pain signals to the brain. This can lead to symptoms of chronic pain.
Occupational therapy has proven to be very beneficial to those people that need to be able to do a specific task at home or work. A therapist may come into a patient’s home or office and performa an evaluation. This is the time when the OT can determine what the goals of treatment are. And from there the progress towards the occupational therapy goals are tracked and changed as needed.
With a resurgence in the need for OTs and OTAs there is an upswing in the amount of students that are applying for admittance into OT programs. This is especially true in areas of the country that are seeing a higher rate of unemployment and general economic malaise. So people are turning to this career as a safe haven from the fears of a weak economy. If you simply want to work in the OT field for job security that may not be the best idea because occupational therapy requires someone that can deal with extremely troublesome and sometimes bizarre situations. You must thrive on helping others even when they sometimes don’t appreciate you. This is especially true if you are working with patients with Altzheimer’s or dementia. These patients will sometimes even try to strike out at you. So you just have to be ready for anything.
Occupational Therapy ethical standards defined by the AOTA (American Occupational Therapy Association) are to be followed by occupational therapy professionals. Every OT professional is obliged to obide by the Code and Ethics Standards. The ethics commitee can determine if the violation of the ethics code has taken place. If so then they can recommend a punishment.
Becoming an occupational therapist or occupational therapist assistant is possible in most states in the US. There are a number of programs offering a Master’s and Doctoral degree in occupational therapy.
Occupational Therapy Salary
Occupational therapist salary can range from an average of $73,000 to over $100,000 per year. The OT salary will vary based on what region of the country one lives as well as years of experience. An OT can make a good living and only need to go to school for a few years after college. The admission process is lengthy and occupational therapy programs are quite competitve.
Occupational Therapy Job Outlook
The outlook for the industry is looking good for OT positions. Most government labor statistics point to the growth in OT positions available from 2011 to 2021 to be well over 30%. You must also consider the fact that the U.S. has an aging population. Every year that goes by our population’s average age is rising and with that we see more people in need of healthcare services. A correlation between the countries ever increasing obesity epidemic coupled with medications that help unhealthy people live longer lives. We are going to see a big boom in the need for all health care workers. All areas of therapy have a strain on them already. So if you are worried about job security, you won’t need to if you are an occupational therapist.