occupational therapy

a form of therapy in which patients are encouraged to engage in vocational tasks or expressive activities, as art or dance, usually in a social setting.
[1910-15]

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Use of activities to promote health and independence, particularly after the acute phase of illness.

Such therapy is often vital for reorienting patients unable to work for long periods. Occupational therapists assess patients' abilities, tailor programs to restore physical function, and devise ways to help those with permanent limitations carry out everyday functions. See also physical medicine and rehabilitation.

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Introduction

      use of self-care and work and play activities to promote and maintain health, prevent disability, increase independent function, and enhance development. This form of therapy evolved from the recognition that work helps to restore the mentally and physically ill, particularly after the acute phase of illness has passed. Because any form of therapy must be dependent on others, any treatment program designed by an occupational therapist is coordinated with the work of doctors, nurses, and other related professional personnel in setting up a specific program for a patient.

History.
      Patients have long been employed in the utility services of mental (mental hygiene) hospitals. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, experiments were made in the use of craft activities to occupy mental patients. This practice gave rise to the first occupational therapy workshops and later to schools for the training of occupational therapists. Later developments included problem-solving techniques, crafts, and work procedures for young people and industrial programs and activity programs of jobs for patients within the hospital. In 1952 a World Federation of Occupational Therapists was formed, and in 1954 the first international congress of occupational therapists was held at Edinburgh.

Modern activities.
      Occupational therapy is designed as specific treatment to restore physical function and to establish self-help methods in such simple functions as eating, dressing, and writing, as far as permanent limitations of the patient permit. The occupational therapist, in order to carry out the treatment prescribed by the physician, must have adequate knowledge of anatomy, physiology, medicine, surgery, psychiatry, and psychology, as well as knowledge of the skills used in treatment. A period of supervised clinical experience is usually required.

      To rehabilitate and resettle the disabled, either for return to work or for home employment, it is essential to assess their ability to work. Methods vary from simple activity tests to full-scale work tests and psychiatric assessment. After assessment some prevocational training or practice may be necessary, and many occupational therapy departments have units in which the patient may be taught, or gain experience in, the use of tools for trades (e.g., woodwork), light industrial work (e.g., light assembly work), and clerical duties (e.g., typing). After initial training many patients are transferred to further training centres or direct to industry, others to employment in sheltered workshops maintained by government or voluntary agencies, and some to work at home. Occupational therapy is vital for reorienting patients hospitalized or unemployed for long periods.

      An equally important phase of therapy is rehabilitation for daily living. An equipped kitchen unit is a standard part of most modern occupational therapy departments, and many centres have model living quarters so that practice in home care can be provided for the housewife before she resumes her duties after a serious accident or long illness. The difficulty of caring for the chronically sick is also minimized when the patient is made able to care for himself. Occupational therapy provides not only training in daily living activities but also aids that make eating, dressing, and toilet less fatiguing for the sick or elderly. See also physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Additional Reading
Mary S. Jones, An Approach to Occupational Therapy, 3rd ed. (1977); Helen L. Hopkins and Helen D. Smith (eds.), Willard and Spackman's Occupational Therapy, 8th ed. (1993); The American Journal of Occupational Therapy (monthly); The British Journal of Occupational Therapy (monthly).

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Universalium. 2010.

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