Common conditions that can be improved through occupational therapy
Occupational therapists (OTs) help people overcome challenges to live as independently as possible and have a greater quality of life. They work with patients with many conditions and collaborate to determine the best ways to improve their daily lives. They develop treatment plans for each client based on their unique needs and goals. OTs who wish to work at the top of their field can study for a doctorate.
American International College offers the online Post-professional Occupational Therapy Doctorate for occupational therapists who wish to advance their careers. Practicing OTs with a bachelor’s degree can bridge to a doctoral degree by completing a post-professional doctorate, and those with a master’s degree can upskill by completing the same qualification. There are many advantages to gaining this qualification, including the doctorate in occupational therapy salary.
The doctorate, offered by the American International College, will cover clinical practice, education, research and advocacy. Students will learn to apply evidence to their practice while focusing on research and leadership. This degree qualifies graduates for the highest level of career options in OT.
OTs work with patients in various circumstances. Here is a look at some of the disorders and conditions they work with:
Arthritis is most common in older adults but can affect people of all ages. This condition causes pain and inflammation in the joints. OTs teach their clients how to care for their joints and how to do exercises that improve joint function. They provide splints to support the joints while resting or working.
OTs can advise on tools, equipment and alternative methods, and, if required, help source adaptations for the workplace or home. They teach their patients exercises, for example, to improve wrist and hand strength and mobility. An OT can help their patients break down their activities, work out where the difficulties are, and suggest changes that might help. They help patients manage the fatigue that often comes with arthritis. The aim is to help people manage daily activities themselves.
Autism spectrum disorder
This neurodevelopmental disorder is characterized by impaired communication skills, repetitive and restricted behaviors, and isolated areas of interest. OTs help their patients develop the skills they need in daily life. These skills include interacting socially, self-regulating emotions and improving self-care routines.
People with this disorder often have difficulty with sensory processing, so OTs focus on sensory integration and sensory-based strategies. They use cognitive behavioral approaches to support positive behaviors. OTs observe their patients and consider social, communication, cognitive, sensory and motor skills. After an evaluation, the OT works with the patient and family to develop an intervention plan and treatment goals.
This chronic mental health condition affects how people think, feel and behave. When active, the person may experience symptoms like hallucinations and delusions. They may avoid being with people, have disorganized thoughts and speech, and be uninterested in everyday activities. However, treatment can significantly improve symptoms and make a recurrence less likely.
People may have everyday social and work problems, and OT can help. OTs will assess the individual’s situation to understand the impact that the symptoms have on their life. They will work with the client and their family to identify realistic goals to improve functional performance and quality of life. The OTs will have a person-centered and strength-based approach. Their goals will include:
- Ways to manage and control symptoms.
- Establishing a daily routine.
- Accessing voluntary work or paid employment.
People who have had strokes will often experience weakness on one side of their body and problems with vision and speech. Many stroke survivors face barriers to engaging in productive activity and OTs can help them to find meaningful occupations and more independence. OTs help patients to regain some level of independence and functionality by working on everyday activities, like dressing and eating, as well as motor and cognitive skills. They will work with the patient and family to determine the activities that are most important to them. The OT goals can be wide ranging but can include:
- Teaching self-care skills.
- Developing coping strategies.
- Pre-driving and driving evaluations.
- Addressing deficits like visual or cognitive impairments.
Other OT interventions include assistive technology training, home modifications and wheelchair prescriptions.
This condition is a decline in cognitive abilities due to injury or disease. People with dementia can have trouble with memory, judgment and thinking. Most dementia cases are classified as Alzheimer’s disease.
OTs work with patients and families to address the functional implications of dementia. OTs evaluate patients to determine their strengths, impairments and areas needing intervention. They help their patients to retain existing functions for as long as possible. An example of an intervention by OTs is supporting the habits and routines that are working well for the patient so they can be maintained to prolong independence.
This is a neurological disorder that affects muscle tone and movement. OTs aim to foster their patients’ independence and productivity. They want to help their patients achieve the highest level of functional performance. OTs will help a person improve strength, coordination and dexterity. This is done using various techniques such as exercise, massage and assistive devices. They will also help with decision making, memory and problem solving. Therapy can assist the patient in developing and maintaining a daily routine and enhancing the quality of life.
Best practice OT relies on the practitioner’s understanding of a client’s occupational experiences, daily life, interests, values and needs. Once the OT has a clear sense of the person’s situation and goals, they can use that information to develop a tailored treatment plan. They collaborate with clients, families and healthcare professionals to ensure the treatment plan is relevant to the patient. The plan directs the actions of the OT and describes interventions to be used to target the client’s chosen outcomes. Treatment plans are based on all aspects of the client’s situation, such as goals, needs, profile and performance analysis, environmental and personal context, and the best available evidence.
OTs understand that only the client can identify the occupations that give meaning to their life and select the goals and priorities that are important to them. OTs get to know the patient and their situation very well, and this helps them to make treatment plans that fit the person and are relevant and personalized. By following the treatment plan, OTs can support their patients as functionality is improved.
To conclude, OTs work with patients who have many conditions and disorders. They always aim to increase independence and enhance the quality of life. They develop tailored treatment plans with patients and families to enable individuals to reach their goals and improve their daily lives. High-level degree programs like the doctorate produce leaders who will make a difference in this field.