Occupational Therapy: Definition, Uses, Qualification, Theory, Subspecialties & Treatment
Occupational therapy is a healthcare profession that employs different techniques to restore the routine activities of an individual and facilitate adaptation to disability to minimize its effects on the quality of life. The patients undergoing occupational therapy are first evaluated for their level of routine skills, interests, goals, daily routine, and sense of competency. Occupational therapy equips individuals with the ability to live their lives independently. The occupational therapists may use exercises, certain activities, and alterations in the daily routine practices. [1, 2]
The indications for the application of occupational therapy are as follows. [1, 2]
- Individuals who require prosthetics or orthotics (braces) owing to amputation of extremities.
- Individuals who suffer from developmental disorders or are subjected to delays in developmental milestones. These include physical disabilities, motor disorders, and autism.
- Individuals suffering from musculoskeletal disorders including osteoarthritis, bone fractures, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Individuals who require adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs and motorized scooters for improving their quality of life.
- Individuals who suffer from brain disorders including multiple sclerosis, dementia, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and Parkinson’s disease.
- Individuals who have undergone paralysis due to spinal injury.
- Individuals suffering from mental illnesses including schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety.
- Individuals experiencing fatigue, reduced range of movement, and problems with coordination, perception, sensation, and memory associated with job-related and/or household roles.
Qualification Required to Become Occupational Therapists
In order to become an occupational therapy practitioner, one must follow the mentioned steps and acquire the mentioned degrees from the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) accredited institution offering occupational therapy programs. 
- One shall obtain a degree from professional occupational therapy programs accredited by the ACOTE.
- After completion of the degree, one shall clear the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. The licensing exam may vary from one state to another.
- Before entering into the professional occupational therapy program, one shall complete an undergraduate degree. The major undergraduate subjects may include psychology, biology, sociology, kinesiology, anatomy, liberal arts, and anthropology.
- Institutions also offer a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program. Under this program, the students can enter the program without completing an undergraduate degree.
- For occupational therapists who aim to continue with further education, post-professional programs are available for further specialization.
Occupational Therapy Theory
The conceptual model comprises technology, physical environment, intrinsic factors (occupation, sensory, motor, psychology, spirituality, physiology, occupation, and cognition), and community environment (social support, social capital, policy, and capital). Occupational therapists shall incorporate the mentioned extrinsic and intrinsic factors along with compensatory techniques to enable older patients in participating in community and household activities. The conceptual model of occupational therapy focuses on the significance of community involvement of older adults.
The European Conceptual Framework of occupational therapy describes the views of occupational therapists concerning human actions and ways in which occupational therapists affect the occupational performance of their patients. The four characteristics of this framework are as follows.
- The framework is dynamic.
- The framework demonstrates the perspective of the occupational therapist.
- The framework is categorized into eight clusters.
- The framework is organized into the internal and external world of an individual and the interface between the two.
As per the European Conceptual Framework, occupational therapists consider themselves observers and performers to get a good grasp of the real-life experiences of their patients. The eight clusters of this framework include a place for action, place, personal requisites, energy source, boundaries, structure, social contract, and the nature of the action. The actions may include activity performance, occupational performance, occupational performance areas, and task performance. The clusters are further classified into three categories that include the person (intrinsic factors), environment (extrinsic factors), and the action interface between these two factors. This framework provides an opportunity to improve the occupational performance of the patient and determine the extrinsic and intrinsic factors that influence occupational performance.
The occupational therapy practice framework comprises two sections – domain and process. The domain refers to the occupations, intrinsic factors, performance skills, performance patterns, contexts, and environments of the patient. On the contrary, process refers to the focused and client-centered actions of the occupational therapists while providing services.
Another model ‘Instrumentalism in Occupational Therapy’ emphasizes the patient’s mind as an instrumental tool that can be used by the occupational therapist for improving the adaptation and occupational functioning of that patient. The three phases of this model are described as follows. 
- Phase I is called belief establishment.
- Phase II refers to further strengthening of the beliefs and completion of activities.
- Phase III refers to the appraisal of the expected consequences.
Occupational Therapy Subspecialties
The subspecialties of occupational therapy include the following. 
- Gerontology – This subspecialty caters to the treatment of older patients.
- Mental Health – This subspecialty caters to the treatment of individuals who suffer from mental health conditions.
- Pediatrics – This subspecialty caters to the treatment of neonates, toddlers, children, and adolescents.
- Physical Rehabilitation – This subspecialty caters to the physical rehabilitation of the patients.
Occupational Therapy Treatment
Occupational therapy improves the skills that are required by an individual to live independently. The treatment enables an individual to cope with physical and mental challenges with subsequent improvement in the quality of life. Occupational therapy involves re-training of the routine skills, learning new skills, exercises (movement, perception, concentration, memory, manual, and creative), alteration of workspace or household, structuring daily routine, using medical aid, and providing guidance to the family members.  The patients are also educated on the management of symptoms and health conditions. Occupational therapists also facilitate the patients to adapt to the physical and social environments. Both caregivers and family members are guided and supported by the occupational therapists. 
Occupational therapists play a significant role in improving the quality of life of the patients and helping them adapt to work and household environments. Occupational therapists acquire their professional degrees and state license after completing an undergraduate education in specified subjects. Occupational therapists do further specialization in gerontology, mental health, physical rehabilitation, and pediatrics.
Occupational Therapy Home Self-Treatment
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