April marks Occupational Therapy month, so in order to commend and commemorate the hard and vital work these therapists do, many of us have dedicated time to discussing some not-very-well-known facts about occupational therapy.
History of Occupational Therapy
The Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy was founded in 1917 in order to define and officially establish the profession. The group was later renamed the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), which has grown exponentially over the last several decades with certifications and accreditations to all occupational therapists in the field. AOTA defines occupational therapy as the “use of purposeful activity to maximize independence, prevent disability, and maintain health.” (Facts about occupational therapy)
Occupational Therapy Facts and Myths Revealed
1. Occupational therapy is more diverse than its name suggests. Despite the name, occupational therapy includes more than just job-related injury rehabilitation. These therapists work with anyone who has physical limitations of any kind that affect their quality of life. They focus on people of all ages, including newborns and elderly. They help a variety of people with not just physical, but cognitive and emotional problems as well by helping them develop patterns and behaviors that will improve their daily functioning. They work with those who have birth defects or developmental disabilities, behavioral problems, people with arthritis or other conditions that negatively impact movement, and even people with substance abuse problems.
2. Occupational therapy is not the same as physical therapy. Occupational therapy focuses on helping to re-establish independent living such as working on tasks like bathing, dressing, and feeding yourself. It focuses on helping you work through disabilities or ailments to have better quality of life. Physical therapists work primarily with movement, with their primary focus only on mobility. (Myths About Occupational Therapy)
3. Education. Occupational therapists are highly educated. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the entry-level education needed for all occupational therapists is at least a Master’s Degree from an accredited university. Even after receiving a Master’s degree, therapists much also pass the certification exam, which is administrated by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapists. Continuing education credits in order to keep this certification are also required.
4. Salary. According to US News & World Report, the median annual salary in 2012 for occupational therapists was $75,400. The best paid therapists (top 10%) in the field made $107,070, and the bottom 10% made $50,500.
5. Occupational therapists are designers and inventors. Therapists are trained and highly skilled at selecting and designing specialized equipment for their patients including orthotics and splints. They work very closely with prosthetic companies and manufacturers to develop the best and most efficient products for specific ailments.
If you work with, know, or see an occupational therapist, thank them for their service, bring them a coffee, or buy them a good meal this month in honor of their hard work and dedication to helping make the lives of those afflicted with disabilities and debilitating injuries better and more comfortable.