Myths and Misconceptions about Occupational Therapy

By Dr. Yahtil Huaute, OT, DOT
Boundary Community Hospital
April 8, 2020

Yahtil Huaute, OT, DOT is the Occupational Therapist at Boundary Community Hospital.

April is National Occupational Therapy Month! There are plenty of myths and misconceptions about occupational therapy services, the providers, and the history. Here are the top 5 myths or misconceptions of occupational therapy:

1. Occupational therapists help you get a job. Occupational therapy addresses tasks that occupy your time, not your employment. Occupational therapists (OTs) can assist in work hardening skills to allow you to return to your employment, or in the ergonomics of your working tasks, however the term occupation is pertaining to tasks that occupy your time. This can include working, homemaking, caregiving for others, taking care of yourself, cooking, cleaning, shopping, driving, and so on. The goal is to get you back to living the life you want!

2. Occupational therapy is for old people. OT’s work with every age, from birth to death. Approximately 1/3 of the national occupational therapy caseload is with children, this includes newborns in the NICU, toddlers in early development, school age children, and older children all the way up to transitioning into college. In working with the pediatric population, therapist are treating the whole family to allow for the best outcomes. Many adults attend occupational therapy for a variety of reasons including hand/arm injury, job ergonomics, or debility due to illness.

3. Occupational therapists only work in a medical setting. OTs can work almost anywhere! The most common settings are school districts, private clinics, home health, nursing homes, and hospitals. There are less common settings as well, including mental health settings, programs in the community, or within a private company. Working in a private company allows therapists to address employee needs and to avoid work injuries through good equipment placement, proper body mechanics, and adjusting the environment to avoid repetitive movement injuries.

4. Occupational therapists and physical therapists (PTs) are the same. There is some overlap between the two, however OT is focused on what people need to do in their daily lives and PT is focused on strength and movement. For example, if you have a stroke, PT will work on restoration of movement, coordination, gait and balance whereas OT will work on tasks like feeding yourself, dressing yourself, and other tasks you need to return to your life. OT will also make recommendations for, and provide training with, adaptive equipment as needed.

5. OT’s just play games and do puzzles with kids. Kids learn through play, so the play is therapy in disguise. A puzzle can be used to work on fine motor skills, visual scanning, attention to task, and the ability to see patterns. Playing with a ball works on kid’s hand-eye coordination, timing, adjusting how hard or soft to throw the ball, and visual convergence. If a kid looks like they are playing during OT, then they are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. Play is essential to children’s growth and development.

Rehabilitation Services including Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Speech Therapy are considered essential healthcare services. The team at Boundary Community Hospital offers appointments Monday through Friday in Outpatient Services with some pediatric telehealth appointments.

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