Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

April 30, 2014

Occupational Therapy and Living Life to It’s Fullest

It’s the last day of OT month, so Melissa Petcu is sharing a little bit of the history of Occupational therapy.

Have you ever asked an occupational therapist what they do and gotten a long, drawn out explanation? Have you ever been a little bit confused when someone you know is an OT in a skilled nursing facility or takes a child to see a pediatric therapist? The thing is, there are a lot of occupational therapists that do very different things, and yet we all have the same title. How in the world is that even possible? I think it will make a little more sense if we look at the start and history of occupational therapy.

Occupational therapy began during the enlightenment period when a select few individuals began changing the way people with mental illnesses were treated. It was during this time that the belief of therapeutic activities began. Treatment for people with mental illness used activities such as reading, music, and arts and crafts that could be therapeutic for relieving stress and giving the person a sense of purpose. While this new philosophy was a great start to changing the way that individuals with mental illness were treated, it was slow to catch on. During World War 1, an influx in wounded soldiers called on occupational therapists in a new way, introducing them to physical medicine in the hospitals. Occupational therapists continued using therapeutic activities in ways to aide recovery from physical disabilities. While providing these therapeutic activities, OT‚Äôs also focused on ensuring the soldiers returned to as independent of a lifestyle they could have once discharged from the hospital.  With the beginning of educational reforms for people with disabilities, occupational therapists began working in school systems. The importance of a holistic approach to therapy, health promotion, and prevention continues to be the mission of occupational therapy. Today, you can find occupational therapists in many different settings. They work with individuals across lifespan by using therapeutic activities to promote the skills a person needs to be able to be as independent as possible, engage in activities with a sense of purpose, and to participate in social settings and community.