Occupational therapy is an allied health care field that focuses primarily on prevention of disability and restoration of a patient's ability to perform the tasks of daily living. Occupational therapy practitioners may assist patients in learning to perform self–care activities like eating, dressing, and grooming. Occupational therapy also involves restoring the ability to perform essential work and leisure tasks. Occupational therapy is similar to physical therapy, but not exactly the same. Occupational therapists are the primary practitioner on an occupational therapy care team, and they may use physical means, such as games, toys, and exercises, to employ therapy. They may also instruct patients in strategies for dealing with mental and emotional issues. Occupational therapy is a unique blend of physical and non–physical modalities for treating a wide variety of ailments in a broad spectrum of patients. Occupational therapists are trained in master's level occupational therapy programs.
Who receives Occupational Therapy?
Though occupational therapy may be provided to a wide variety of individuals across the lifespan, occupational therapy is most commonly provided to children with developmental delays or other disabilities, and to the elderly. Children’s occupational therapy may focus on gross and fine motor skills, personal care, and social and academic skills. Some examples of pediatric therapy include manipulating small objects like puzzles and modeling clay, to improve fine motor skills. Children in occupational therapy may also use equipment to improve gross motor skills. An example of self-care in pediatric occupational therapy is children with an overly sensitive gag reflex. Occupational therapists help these children learn to eat well and decrease this gag reflex. Some children, especially children with autism spectrum disorders or other disabilities are extremely sensitive to tactile stimulation. Occupational therapists can help children overcome these difficulties.
Geriatric occupational therapy patients may have suffered a stroke, memory loss, or some form of progressive dementia. Occupational therapy care may help with strategies for coping with memory loss, like list making, for example. Occupational therapy may also focus on physical function. Music, games, exercise, and activities are commonly employed in occupational therapy to help re-train disabled adults in a variety of activities. Occupational therapy is not limited to pediatric and geriatric patients. Other examples of occupational therapy include hand therapy after traumatic hand injury, and self-care help in adults who have suffered paralysis or loss of function in some part of the body.
What is the role of an Occupational Therapy Technician?
An occupational therapy technician, also called an occupational therapy assistant, is a crucial member of an occupational therapy care team. Occupational therapy technicians may take on increasingly responsible roles in developing and managing patient care. They often work directly with patients to implement the care plan designed by the occupational therapist. The occupational therapy technician may perform many of the tasks of the occupational therapist, including employing methods for fine and gross motor skills development, and leading exercises and activities. The primary difference between the occupational therapist and the occupational therapy technician is that the therapist evaluates patients, defines therapy goals and objectives, and designs a therapeutic plan to achieve those objectives. The occupational therapy technician may collaborate and assist in these activities, but the occupational therapist has ultimate control and responsibility over these areas. The occupational therapy technician supports the occupational therapist by assisting in carrying out therapy care plans.
Job outlook of Occupational Therapy Technicians
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), occupational therapy technician jobs are expected to grow much faster than the average through the year 2016, with a projected growth of 25% between 2006 and 2016. Opportunities for occupational therapist positions in geriatric specialty are particularly good, due to the growth in the elderly population. Occupational therapist positions are also expected to grow, increasing the need for qualified occupational therapy technicians.
Also according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational therapy assistants earned a median salary of about $42,000 as of 2006. Salaries ranged from $34,000 to $50,000. Occupational therapy technician jobs have excellent pay and career outlook among jobs requiring an associate’s degree.
How can I become an Occupational Therapy Technician?
In order to apply for occupational therapy technician jobs, most states require that a technician complete an educational training through one of the many accredited occupational therapy programs. Occupational therapy programs for assistants and technicians usually require the completion of a two-year associate’s degree, and often include an internship under the supervision of a practicing occupational therapist.
Why Should I Consider a Career as an Occupational Therapy Technician?
There are many reasons to consider becoming an occupational therapy technician. Occupational therapy technician jobs offer excellent growth and advancement potential, and occupational therapy technicians may consider furthering their education to qualify for occupational therapist positions later on. Occupational therapist technicians earn a great salary in a fast-growing field, and have the satisfaction of a job that helps people restore function and prevent disability. Because occupational therapy employs such a diverse range of healing modalities across a range of patients at many stages of the lifespan, occupational therapy technicians have a variety of options for finding an enjoyable and rewarding specialty niche. Occupational therapy technicians get paid for a rewarding career in helping people live functional and fulfilled lives.