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Presentation 4: What is occupational therapy (OT)? M. Windsor, ScD, OTR/L

Occupational therapy is skilled treatment designed for individuals or groups whose performance of the ordinary tasks and activities of daily living has been disrupted. It is called "occupational" therapy because of the emphasis it places upon the importance of occupation (e.g., functional tasks and activities performed throughout life that are meaningful and purposeful to the individual). The historical basis of the profession is in the early twentieth century when physicians and others began to notice that sick people engaged in activities (usually crafts) appeared to get well faster than those who had nothing to occupy their time. The concept of "occupation" continues to be studied, discussed and refined; its theoretical basis to practice has become a separate discipline called occupational science.

Occupational therapy practitioners are educated in science as well as in liberal arts: human development, anatomy, physiology, pathology, and psychology. They complete supervised clinical internships in different health care settings and must pass a national examination (presided over by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, Inc.) An entry level occupational therapist has earned a bachelor, master, or doctoral degree. (The profession began at the associate level, moved to a four-year bachelor level, and now requires a five-year master degree. An innovative entry-level practice doctoral degree has recently been developed by several universities.)

The occupational therapist who has completed the required academic program, has passed the national exam, and/or has satisfied the requirement for certification renewal adds "registered" to his or her title and uses the initials "OTR." An entry level occupational therapy assistant has generally completed a two-year associate degree program. The occupational therapy assistant who has completed the required training program, passed the national exam, and/or has satisfied the requirements for certification renewal adds "certified" to his or her title and uses the initials "COTA."

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is the professional organization that supports the practice of occupational therapy and is responsible for publication of its official journal The American Journal of Occupational Therapy (AJOT). The AOTA has an informative website that may be of interest to consumers.

In many states, licensure is required for the practice of OT; this is usually indicated by an "L", e.g., OTR/L, LOTR, and COTA/L.



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