Occupations are the essence of productive living. Occupational therapists focus on the occupations practiced by people to live full, independent lives. Occupations or activities of daily living include work or education, self–care, play/leisure and the effect of rest on these activities. The goal of this profession is to maximize a person’s ability to perform appropriate daily occupations.
Occupational therapists work with persons to promote an individualized balance of occupations throughout one’s lifespan. Occupational performance is developed and enhanced by treating the “Whole person” and attending to physical, psychological, emotional, social and cultural issues, as influenced by the environment. Treatment is based on purposeful activity that requires physical and mental involvement of those being treated.
The importance of activity as a means of regaining health and function had been known for centuries and had been especially used in the treatment of mental disabilities. However, occupational therapy only became established as a formal profession in 1917, when services were needed to help returning soldiers regain function after World War I (1914–1918). Occupational therapists have either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in occupational therapy. Training includes course work in biology, psychology, and the theory and practice of occupational therapy, including clinical experience.
As efforts grow to integrate people with disabilities into all areas of society, the profession of occupational therapy has been expanding. The occupational therapist consults with public and private agencies to help make their work environment more accessible to the disabled and the workplace more accident free.