Occupational Therapist

A health professional who helps people with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities perform everyday activities.


An occupational therapist is a licensed health professional who specializes in helping people with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities to develop, recover, improve, and maintain the skills needed for daily living and working. They work with individuals across the lifespan, from infants to the elderly, adapting tasks and environments to enhance their clients' independence and quality of life. Occupational therapists collaborate with their clients to assess their needs, set goals, and create customized treatment plans that address specific challenges and promote participation in meaningful activities.

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The roots of occupational therapy can be traced back to the early 20th century. In the wake of World War I, the need to rehabilitate injured soldiers and help them return to meaningful roles in society led to the development of the profession. The term "occupational therapy" was first coined in 1917 by George Edward Barton, an architect who advocated for the therapeutic use of meaningful activities. The profession grew during World War II, as therapists played a crucial role in the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers. In the following decades, occupational therapy expanded its scope to address the needs of individuals with various disabilities, chronic illnesses, and mental health conditions across all age groups.


  1. Improved Independence Occupational therapists help individuals develop or regain the skills necessary for daily living, enhancing their ability to perform tasks independently.
  2. Enhanced Quality of Life By enabling participation in meaningful activities and roles, occupational therapy contributes to improved physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
  3. Customized Treatment Plans Occupational therapists create personalized interventions tailored to each client's unique needs, goals, and circumstances.
  4. Adaptations and Modifications Therapists recommend and implement adaptations to tasks and environments, making them more accessible and manageable for individuals with disabilities.
  5. Holistic Approach Occupational therapy takes a holistic view of the individual, considering physical, cognitive, and psychosocial factors that impact their ability to engage in activities.
  6. Collaborative Care Occupational therapists work closely with clients, their families, and other healthcare professionals to ensure coordinated and comprehensive care.

How It Works

Occupational therapists help individuals develop, recover, improve, and maintain the skills needed for daily living and working. They assess a person's unique needs and create a customized treatment plan that may include exercises, assistive devices, and modifications to the person's environment. OTs work with people of all ages who have physical, sensory, or cognitive problems due to illness, injury, or disability. Treatment sessions may focus on activities like dressing, eating, bathing, using a computer, or performing work tasks. The goal is to enhance the person's independence and quality of life by improving their ability to perform meaningful activities.


When working with an occupational therapist, it's important to be open and honest about your needs, goals, and any challenges you face. Progress may take time and require consistent effort, so patience and commitment are key. Some interventions may involve changes to your environment or daily routine, which can take some adjustment. It's also essential to find an OT who is a good fit for you personally and has experience treating your specific condition. Insurance coverage for occupational therapy can vary, so it's wise to check your benefits beforehand. Lastly, be prepared to take an active role in your treatment and follow through with any assigned home exercises or strategies.

How Much It Costs

The cost of occupational therapy can vary depending on factors such as location, insurance coverage, and the specific services needed. On average, a single session with an occupational therapist can range from $50 to $400. Some insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, may cover occupational therapy services when deemed medically necessary. Private pay rates for those without insurance typically fall between $100 to $200 per session. Keep in mind that the frequency and duration of sessions will impact overall costs. Some individuals may need weekly sessions for several months, while others may require less frequent or shorter-term interventions.

Virtual & Online Options

Virtual occupational therapy sessions can offer several benefits compared to in-person visits. Online sessions provide greater flexibility in scheduling and eliminate the need for travel, saving time and money. This can be especially helpful for those with mobility issues or transportation challenges. Teletherapy also allows access to a wider range of specialists who may not be available locally. However, in-person sessions may be preferable for hands-on interventions, complex conditions, or when a thorough home environment assessment is needed. Ultimately, the choice between virtual and local options depends on individual needs, preferences, and the nature of the treatment plan.


To practice as an occupational therapist in the United States, individuals must earn a master's or doctoral degree in occupational therapy from an accredited program. After completing their degree, they must pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam to become a registered occupational therapist (OTR). Licensure requirements vary by state but typically involve passing the NBCOT exam and meeting any additional state-specific criteria. Some OTs may also choose to pursue specialty certifications in areas such as pediatrics, gerontology, or hand therapy through organizations like the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) or other recognized specialty boards.

Complementary Practices

Occupational therapy can be complemented by physical therapy to improve mobility and strength, speech therapy to address communication challenges, cognitive behavioral therapy to manage mental health, and assistive technology to enhance independence in daily activities. Collaborating with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, psychologists, and social workers, can provide a holistic approach to patient care.

Practitioner Types

Occupational therapists are the primary practitioners in this field. They may specialize in areas such as pediatrics, geriatrics, mental health, or physical rehabilitation. Occupational therapy assistants work under the supervision of occupational therapists to help implement treatment plans and provide support to patients. Other professionals, such as physical therapists, speech therapists, and psychologists, may collaborate with occupational therapists to provide comprehensive care.

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  • Q: What conditions can occupational therapy help with?

    • A: Occupational therapy can help with a wide range of conditions, including developmental delays, physical disabilities, mental health disorders, and cognitive impairments. It is beneficial for people of all ages who struggle with performing daily activities due to injury, illness, or disability.
  • Q: What can I expect during an occupational therapy session?

    • A: During an occupational therapy session, the therapist will assess your abilities, challenges, and goals. They may engage you in activities designed to improve specific skills, such as fine motor control, sensory processing, or cognitive function. The therapist will also provide guidance on adapting daily tasks and using assistive devices to enhance independence.
  • Q: How long does occupational therapy treatment typically last?

    • A: The duration of occupational therapy treatment varies depending on the individual's needs and goals. Some people may require only a few sessions, while others may benefit from ongoing support. The therapist will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan and adjust it as needed based on your progress.
  • Q: Can occupational therapy help with mental health conditions?

    • A: Yes, occupational therapy can be beneficial for people with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Occupational therapists can help individuals develop coping strategies, improve self-care skills, and engage in meaningful activities that promote mental well-being.
  • Q: How can I find a qualified occupational therapist?

    • A: To find a qualified occupational therapist, you can ask for referrals from your primary care physician or other healthcare providers. You can also search online directories provided by professional organizations such as the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). It's important to choose a therapist who is licensed and has experience in treating your specific needs.


Occupational therapy is a valuable healthcare service that helps individuals of all ages improve their ability to perform daily activities and lead fulfilling lives. By working with a skilled occupational therapist, people can overcome challenges related to physical, cognitive, or mental health conditions. Occupational therapy takes a holistic approach, considering the person's unique needs, environment, and goals. Through personalized treatment plans, occupational therapists empower individuals to develop the skills and strategies necessary for greater independence and improved quality of life. If you or a loved one are facing difficulties with daily activities, consulting with an occupational therapist can be an important step towards achieving your goals and enhancing your well-being.