What is Occupational Therapy?

Student Occupational Therapy Session

Occupational therapy (OT) is a science-driven, evidence-based profession that enables people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health and prevent – or live better with – illness, injury or disability.

Occupational therapists work together with the client to design strategies for everyday living and customize environments to develop and maximize their potential or live life to the fullest.

"Living Life To Its Fullest," for the client, may mean:

  • achieving their goals
  • functioning at the highest possible level
  • maintaining or rebuilding their independence
  • participating in the everyday activities that they need to do or that simply make life worth living

Occupational Therapy Definition

From the American Occupational Therapy Association:

"Occupational therapy is the therapeutic use of self-care, work and play activities to increase independent function, enhance development, and prevent disability; may include adaptation of task or environment to achieve maximum independence and to enhance quality of life."

"… the art and science of directing man’s participation in selected tasks to restore, reinforce, and enhance performance functions that are essential for adaptation and productivity, diminish or correct pathology and to promote and maintain health."

Occupational therapists take into account the complete person, including their psychological, physical, emotional and social makeup. OTs use everyday activities as the means to develop the skills that will enable clients to engage fully and build healthy habits and routines.

American Occupational Therapy Association’s Vision 2025

Now that the profession has celebrated its first Centennial, Vision 2025 guides OT beyond the Centennial Vision.

“As an inclusive profession, occupational therapy maximizes health, well-being, and quality of life for all people, populations, and communities through effective solutions that facilitate participation in everyday living.”

Pillars of the Vision

  • Effective: Occupational therapy is evidence-based, client-centered and cost-effective.
  • Leaders: Occupational therapy is influential in changing policies, environments, and complex systems.
  • Collaborative: Occupational therapy excels in working with clients and within systems to produce effective outcomes.
  • Accessible: Occupational therapy provides culturally responsive and customized services.
  • Equity, Inclusion and Diversity: We are intentionally inclusive and equitable and embrace diversity in all its forms.

More Information

Find out more about occupational therapy from these resources: