Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy

Tailored, practical support to improve quality of life and enable meaningful participation in the community

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How can occupational therapy nourish you?

Occupational therapy is an allied health discipline focused on helping people with issues that affect their daily function and quality of life. The word ‘occupation’ in occupational therapy refers to the tasks with which a person occupies themselves[1]. Occupational therapists can assist a person in areas such as health, education, work, or social development[2] – any area that contributes to them living a meaningful life.

People may find it hard to perform daily activities for a variety of reasons. Occupational therapists provide personalised support in the context of your circumstances, whether it be rehabilitation[3] after an injury or illness, issues with sleep[4], recovering from cancer[5], dealing with mental health issues[6] or living with limitations that may be brought about by Parkinson’s disease[7] or multiple sclerosis[8].

The loss of seemingly basic abilities is not only stressful, but may cause further distress on top of already difficult health conditions. Occupational therapists employ practical solutions such as making changes to one’s home environment[9] or using new equipment to help a person maintain, regain or improve their independence[10]. While other health disciplines may focus on a specific area of the body or condition, a key element of occupational therapy is understanding the interactions between the person, community and their environment[11]

Occupational therapy has a holistic approach, and therapists often work with other health professionals such as GP’s, physiotherapists, or a care team to provide coordinated care. They also work in a range of settings such as hospitals, aged care facilities, or specialist clinics. In Australia, occupational therapists are regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)[12].

Benefits of occupational therapy

Occupational therapists undertake study to gain a knowledge base in areas such as neurology, anatomy, psychology and activity-task-environment analysis[13]. The breadth of their training combined with the individualised nature of occupational therapy makes it beneficial for people of all ages, experiencing a wide range of situations.  

For instance, cancer is a disease that exerts tremendous physical and emotional strain[14] on individuals, and many cancer survivors report a decrease in their quality of life and difficulty performing basic activities. The tailored, supportive approach of occupational therapy has been found to be highly relevant for people with cancer[15] and able to assist cancer-related fatigue, improve daily routines such as bathing or organisation and reduce risks of falls.

There is also evidence to suggest that occupational therapy can promote the wellbeing of older people who are living by themselves[16], with particular benefits for mental health and life satisfaction. 

Occupational therapy may assist in relieving symptoms related to:

Body dysmorphia Confidence and self-esteem Depression Developmental disorders Fatigue, burnout and exhaustion Indecision Insomnia and sleep disorders Learning difficulties Mental health Mobility and movement Multiple sclerosis (MS) Muscular dystrophy Show all

What to expect from an occupational therapy session?

An occupational therapy session may occur in an individual or group setting. However, you can expect an individualised assessment with the therapist[17] during which you share your goals and the things that can make your life more meaningful. Your occupational therapist may also visit you in your home, community or work setting to understand how you carry out your daily activities[18].

The therapist will then create a customised plan with specific and measurable steps to help you reach those goals. The focus of occupational therapy is to build your skills and capacity to be productive in your environment, so your input and participation[19] will be key to your plan and progress.

As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing occupational therapy. Don’t hesitate to update your occupational therapist about your progress, and any changed circumstances. They will be happy to ensure your plans remain relevant and you are on track to reaching your goals.


  1. What is occupational therapy? | Occupational Therapy Therapy
  2. Occupational Therapy | Allied Health Professions Australia
  3. Occupational Therapy and Rehabilitation | WFOT
  4. Sleep and Screens: How Technology Can be Used to Improve Sleep in Children | AOTA
  5. Occupational Therapy’s Role in Cancer Survivorship as a Chronic Condition | The American Journal of Occupational Therapy
  6. Occupational Therapy Practice in Community Mental Health: Four Case Examples | AOTA
  7. Physical therapy and occupational therapy in Parkinson's disease | International Journal of Neuroscience
  8. Occupational Therapy in Fatigue Management in Multiple Sclerosis: An Umbrella Review | Hindawi
  9. FAQS | WA Occupational Therapy Association
  10. Occupational therapy | healthdirect
  11. Health Promotion | American Occupational Therapy Association
  12. Home | Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
  13. Occupational Therapy Guide to Good Practice: Working with Children | otaus.com.au
  14. Cancer | World Health Organization
  15. Occupational Therapy for Adults With Cancer: Why It Matters | PMC
  16. Effectiveness of a lifestyle intervention in promoting the well-being of independently living older people: results of the Well Elderly 2 Randomised Controlled Trial | PMC
  17. About AOTA | AOTA
  18. Occupational Therapy | Alfred Health
  19. What to Expect During Occupational Therapy Evaluation | Verywellheath

Frequently asked questions

Occupational therapy is a healthcare discipline focused on improving individuals' ability to perform daily activities. It involves assessing, developing, and implementing personalized strategies to enhance a person's functional abilities and quality of life.

Occupational therapy can address a wide range of issues, including rehabilitation after injury or illness, sleep difficulties, mental health challenges, and conditions like Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis. It aims to help individuals engage in meaningful activities and achieve independence.

Unlike some healthcare disciplines that may focus on specific medical conditions, occupational therapy takes a holistic approach. It considers the interactions between individuals, their communities, and environments, providing practical solutions to improve daily functioning.

Individuals may benefit from occupational therapy when they face challenges in performing daily activities due to health issues, injuries, or other limitations. It is suitable for people of all ages and can address various aspects of life, including work, education, and social participation.

Occupational therapists use a variety of interventions, including modifying the environment, recommending assistive devices, providing education and training, and developing personalized activity plans. These interventions aim to enhance independence and promote overall well-being.

In many cases, a referral is not necessary to see an occupational therapist. Individuals can seek the services of an occupational therapist independently, and sessions can be initiated based on the person's specific needs and goals.

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