Introduction 

Occupational therapy provides support to people whose health prevents them from doing the activities that matter to them.

An occupational therapist can identify strengths and difficulties you may have in everyday life, such as dressing or getting to the shops, and will help you work out practical solutions.

An occupational therapist can work with you to identify goals that can help you maintain, regain or improve your independence by using different techniques, changing your environment and using new equipment.

Who can benefit from occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy is used when an individual is having difficulty with everyday tasks. This could be because of a:

Occupational therapists work with people of all ages and can look at all aspects of daily life, from the home to the school or workplace.

Read more about when occupational therapy is used.

Occupational therapy techniques

After identifying the difficulties experienced by the individual with everyday tasks, occupational therapists can help by either:

  • practising the activity in manageable stages
  • teaching a different way to complete the activity
  • recommending changes that will make the activity easier
  • providing devices that make activities easier

For example, after a hip replacement someone may find it difficult to get in and out of the bath. Grab rails could be fitted in the bathroom to make this easier.

Someone with rheumatoid arthritis (a condition that causes pain and swelling in the joints) may find it hard to lift small objects.

Special equipment, such as a wide-handled vegetable peeler, may be made available to make tasks easier.

Read more about occupational therapy techniques and equipment.

The aim of these changes is to allow you to maintain and improve your ability to do everyday tasks. This can include both work and leisure activities.

Read more about occupational therapy rehabilitation.

How is it accessed?

Ask your GP, nurse or other health or social care professional for a referral to see an occupational therapist.

You can also go through your local clinical commissioning group (CCG) or local authority social services department.

If you do not want to go through the NHS or local authority, you can contact an occupational therapist directly.

Read more about accessing occupational therapy.

The professional body for occupational therapists working in a wide range of areas in the UK is the British Association of Occupational Therapy (BAOT).

The association, which includes the College of Occupational Therapists (COT), publishes several helpful patient information leaflets explaining how their work can help.

Occupational therapy

An occupational therapist explains what occupational therapy involves, who can benefit and the different types of help that are available.

Media last reviewed: 12/09/2013

Next review due: 12/09/2015

Page last reviewed: 23/08/2014

Next review due: 23/08/2016