Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists help people with mental, physical or social disabilities to independently carry out every day tasks or occupations. They work with children and adults of all ages, whose difficulties may have been present since birth, or the result of an accident, illness, ageing or lifestyle. They create individual treatment programmes to help people carry out their daily tasks and to do so with more confidence and independence. They may suggest changes to the person’s environment, whether that be at home, work or school, and may introduce the use of equipment which will help with some activities. Occupational therapists review the treatments periodically, evaluate progress and make changes to the treatment as needed.

Occupational therapists work with a diverse range of people who all have different needs. Their aim is to understand each person’s requirements and lifestyle so they can create the best treatment plan for them. The work an occupational therapist carries out may include:

  • advising on specialist equipment to assist with daily activities;
  • developing a rehabilitation programme to help re-build lost skills and restore lost confidence;
  • advising on home and workplace environmental modifications, such as adaptations for wheelchair access;
  • teaching anxiety management techniques;
  • assisting people to return to work;
  • coaching people with learning difficulties or poor social skills, e.g. in handling money and social interaction;
  • mentoring people on how to control their own behaviour;
  • liaising with a wide variety of other professionals, such as doctors, physiotherapists, social workers, equipment suppliers and architects, as well as patients’ families, carers and employers;
  • writing reports and attend multidisciplinary case meetings to plan and review on-going treatment;
  • organising support and rehabilitation groups for carers and clients;
  • training students and supervise the work of occupational therapy assistants

The Prospects website also gives information on entry requirements including academic, personal skills, and work experience for graduates from other disciplines wishing to train for this profession.

Career Options

There are a wide range of job roles, settings, specialisms and fields in occupational therapy, with salaries starting from £20,000 for a newly qualified Occupational Therapist. With demand for occupational therapy services both in the UK and abroad, there are significant job opportunities, and the profession can offer a rewarding career.  Traditionally the majority of British Association of Occupational Therapy (BAOT) members work in the National Health Service (NHS) but increasingly qualified occupational therapists have found exciting opportunities in other work settings, and we expect this trend to continue. Occupational therapy support staff work in the same places as occupational therapists, with varying levels of independence and responsibility based on experience and the service needs.  (Source: College of Occupational Therapy)

Fields and Specialisms

As a qualified occupational therapist, you could consider working as a practitioner, researcher, manager, lecturer or consultant. Within occupational therapy there is the option to work in different fields, such as social care, mental health, education, learning disabilities or physical rehabilitation. There are also a wide range of practice specialisms to choose from, such as eating disorders, hand therapy and substance misuse and you may wish to specialise in working with children, adults or older people.

Job Settings

You can also decide whether you want to work for someone else or for yourself, in the community, in a hospital, or in a university educating future occupational therapists. The profession continues to develop new areas of practice, so there are many options that you can consider. Occupational therapy jobs exist in a number of settings, including:

  • charities and voluntary agencies
  • commercial and industrial organisations
  • disabled living centres
  • equipment companies
  • government agencies
  • housing departments
  • local community services
  • NHS and private hospitals
  • private practice
  • schools, colleges and universities
  • social services and social work departments
  • wheelchair services
  • hostels for the homeless
  • residential care homes
  • Some occupational therapists choose to work for themselves or set up social enterprises.  For more information see the self employment sections of this site.

See Finding and Applying for jobs in Occupational Therapy for more information.

Last modified: 
Wednesday, April 4, 2018 - 14:42