Exploring occupational therapy as a career option

8 February 2017

What exactly is occupational therapy and how does it differ from physio?

Exploring occupational therapy as a career option
UQ offers a Master of Occupational Therapy Studies program! (Photo: UQ)

Unlike physiotherapy, which evaluates and helps to maintain and restore physical function, occupational therapy helps to solve the problems that interfere with a person’s ability to do everyday things, like dressing, bathing, washing dishes, eating, and other tasks most of us take for granted. Occupational therapy can also help to prevent a problem or minimize its effects.

When do people see occupational therapists?

Usually, occupational therapists are sought when a disability, injury, illness or other problem limits someone’s abilities to care for himself, participate in work, or just enjoy regular leisure time or hobbies. These skills and regular activities are so important to us as people that they often describe how we view ourselves—we identify with our jobs and activities. When disability or injury prevents someone from being able to accomplish a simple, everyday task such as buttoning a shirt, it can affect how he or she feels about himself.
That’s where an occupational therapist comes in.

What do occupational therapists do?

Occupational therapists are highly trained health-care professionals, and they define an occupation as much more than a chosen career. Occupation refers to everything that people do during the course of everyday life, including feeding and dressing themselves. Everyone has many occupations that are essential to our health and well-being.
According to the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, “occupational therapists use a systematic approach based on evidence and professional reasoning to enable individuals, groups and communities to develop the means and opportunities to identify, engage in and improve their function in the occupations of life. The process involves assessment, intervention and evaluation of the client related to occupational performance in self-care, work, study, volunteerism and leisure. Occupational therapists may assume different roles such as advising  on health risks in the workplace, safe driving for older adults, and programs to promote mental health for youth.”
Depending on the particular situation, an occupational therapist will check

  • what one can and cannot do physically (including strength, coordination, balance, or other physical abilities);
  • what materials are used in the occupation (e.g., cooking utensils, clothing, tools, furniture, etc.);
  • what one can and cannot do mentally (coping strategies, memory, organization skills, or other mental abilities);
  • the social and emotional support available in the home, school, work and community; and
  • the physical setup of the house, school, workplace, classroom, or other environment.

Occupational therapists are also trained how to help others cope with their disabilities. OT can help with coping strategies, strength, coordination, and confidence, and recommend changes to environments that will be helpful. Community support may also be available, and the occupational therapist will also assist with finding specialized transportation, support groups, and funding agencies.

Where do occupational therapists work?

Occupational therapists are generally employed in community agencies, hospitals, chronic care facilities, rehabilitation centres and clinics, schools, social agencies industry or are self-employed. While some occupational therapists specialize in working with a specific age group, like the elderly, others may specialize in a particular disability such as arthritis, developmental coordination disorder, mental illness, or spinal cord injury.

Australian Occupational Therapy Schools

If you are finishing high school, the following Australian universities offer a four-year undergraduate occupational therapy degree:

The following Australian Occupational Therapy Schools offer two-year graduate-entry OT programs for those who have already completed an undergraduate degree:

Rehabilitation Sciences Information Sessions

If you’re curious about studying occupational therapy and other rehab sciences degrees, don’t miss the upcoming seminar at Western University. Enjoy refreshments and the opportunity to speak with Australian uni representatives and alumni to learn more about how you can study in Australia and practice in Canada! Be sure to RSVP to save your spot.
Western University
Date: February 9, 2017
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: UCC, Room 210

Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Occupational Therapy Schools Admissions Officer Krista McVeigh krista@oztrekk.com if you have any questions about studying occupational therapy at an Australian university!