Job Requirements: Help clients carry out activities that they need or want to do through emotional and physical therapy.
Education Requirements: Master's degree
Work Locations: Hospitals, Private practice, Client homes, Long term care facilities, Schools
Salary: $72,320 per year, $34.77 per hour (Median Pay)
Job Outlook: 33% (Much faster than average of 14%)
Occupational therapists are professionals that help clients carry out every day activities that they need or want to do but for some reason have become unable to perform certain tasks. Their client base includes all age groups from children to adults and seniors who may be struggling to do basic activities that most of us take for granted because of a disability, aging, mental health problems or a chronic injury. Their job is to assess both mental and physical health of the client and devise a strategy for helping them progress or overcome challenges that are disrupting their lives. Some examples of activities that an occupational therapist may work on include bathing, getting dressed, climbing stairs, play sports, gain mobility in areas that have experienced trauma, cope with stress effectively or just getting outside.
This job is about being creative in helping clients find ways to live the lives they want. In many cases getting there requires more emotional therapy and support than the actual physical training. Because of this, it takes a very dedicated, patient and determined personality to succeed. Occupational therapists usually work directly with clients in environments vary ranging from hospitals to clients homes to the community long term care facilities, schools and more. The ideal location for treatment is within the environment the client functions to help them adapt to their every day challenges.
A multiple sclerosis client lost mobility in legs and had a lot of fatigue due to decreased physical activity and overall depression. He ended up leaving his job and at the same time, lost self worth. Through the work of an occupational therapist, he discovered new ways to be mobile, active and to manage his negative thoughts. This new freedom helped regain his confidence and independence.
A young girl suffered a stroke that affected the right side of her body. She taught herself to do all activities with just her left side but was missing out on living a full life. Through the work of a pediatric occupational therapist, she works daily on including her right arm in basic tasks like playing musical instruments, squeezing a sponge to wash her dolls and rolling play dough to make shapes. With this ongoing work she progressed to where she was incorporating her right shoulder and discovered mobility in her elbow. The success is due to both physical therapy and positive reinforcement from a trusted occupational therapist.
In this job, the therapist does assessments, counseling and interventions to help people do the things they need or want to do. If you are considering a career in occupational therapy, there are some things to consider:
- You should like working with people
- Enjoy coming up with creative ideas
- Be equally patient, determined and dedicated to your clients
- Have a bachelor or masters degree
Positive Features of this career:
- Nice hours (typically business hours, M-F)
- Work in many different areas depending on your clientele (Mental Health, Physical Rehab, Private Practice, Long term care, Orthopedics, Neurology, etc.)
- Work on both mental and physical challenges of patients
- Help people find healthy balance in their lives
Those who are experiencing difficulties in doing the things that they need or want to do and aren't getting the most from life are the people who will seek assistance from an occupational therapist. Patients usually connect with these therapists through their primary care physician or through social services.
by Linda Bright
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