What Does an Occupational Therapy Assistant Do?

Occupational therapy is a diverse profession where effective patient rehabilitation involves a strong collaboration between an occupational therapist (OT) and an occupational therapy assistant (OTA). And, together they help patients of all ages and abilities improve their life skills. So, what function does the OT serve? And, what does an occupational therapy assistant do?

Patients in need of occupational therapy services are those who have difficulty performing daily living and work activities due to an injury, illness, or disability. A patient could be a young adult with cerebral palsy who wants to develop better independent living skills or a wheelchair-bound child who wants to better navigate the hallways at school.  

While the OT takes the lead by evaluating patients and developing their treatment plans, the OTA puts these treatment plans into action. Treatment often involves the use of adaptive tools and/or environment modifications to fit the unique needs of a patient.

OTA responsibilities include:

  • Treating patients via therapeutic and self-care activities.
  • Contributing to comprehensive care plans for patients.
  • Monitoring patient activities and documenting progress.
  • Guiding patients in the use of special equipment.
  • Educating patients and family members on treatment techniques. 

Where do Occupational Therapy Assistants Work?

Occupational therapy is a highly diverse field, with six core practice areas. Within these practice areas, occupational therapy assistants concentrate on both the physical and cognitive aspects of rehabilitation while working with patients of all ages.  

1. Children and Youth

Pediatric OT with patient

OTAs help children of all ages develop life skills, learn self-care activities, and foster relationships with others, etc. OTAs often work with young children who are at risk for developing disabilities, helping them improve their cognitive skills, motor skills, and sensory processing to minimize the potential of developmental delays. For instance, an OTA will help a child develop better hand muscle control for tying his or her shoes.

2. Productive Aging

OTAs work with aging adults and their caregivers to promote the safe performance of daily activities at home and in the community as well as preserve their quality of life and life satisfaction. For instance, an OTA will help a patient with dementia adapt to memory loss. 

3. Health and Wellness

Occupational therapy helps patients maximize their capacity to participate in life activities that are important to them via health and wellness promotion. For instance, an OTA will help a patient with diabetes implement strategies for managing food choices at social events and locate an accessible community exercise program.  

4. Mental Health

Woman going through mental distress

Mental health has a significant impact on an individual’s ability to lead productive daily routines and engage in meaningful daily life activities. For instance, an OTA will help a patient with an anxiety disorder build socialization skills in a way that is comfortable for him or her.

5. Rehabilitation, Disability, and Participation

Occupational therapy benefits people with disabilities and individuals who are recovering from an injury.  For instance, an OTA will help a patient with Down syndrome learn daily self-care activities based on the abilities he or she has. Another example would be an OTA working with an amputee on how to adapt to everyday life with a new artificial limb.

6. Work and Industry

Occupational therapy promotes success in the workplace by improving the fit between an individual, his or her job tasks, and the environment. For instance, an OTA will help an office worker with a back injury implement solutions that enable him or her to sit comfortably at a desk.

Common OTA Employers

  • Community health centers
  • Hospitals
  • Mental health facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Therapist offices
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Schools

Contact us to learn more about what occupational therapy assistants do and where they work.

Start Today

By requesting information, I consent to be contacted by Harcum College through my email, phone, and text using automated technology regarding enrollment.