Occupational Therapists: What They Do and How to Become One skip to Main Content

Occupational Therapists: What They Do and How to Become One

Occupational Therapists, often called OTs, work with individuals to help them get back to living their best life possible. Occupational Therapists are problem solvers that help people overcome obstacles – this can be anything from helping someone with a physical ailment do a hobby they love, to conducting an in-home assessment to create a safe living environment.

What Occupational Therapists Do

Occupational Therapist with a child

Occupational Therapists enable people to become more productive and overcome obstacles when experiencing issues participating in everyday activities. A person that has suffered a stroke, for example, may benefit from having an Occupational Therapist teach them how to perform tasks that have become difficult. Occupational Therapists help their patients do things that are important to them throughout the day, including:

  • Getting dressed
  • Eating
  • Moving around the house
  • Doing school work such as writing and drawing
  • Going to work and finding ways to develop new employable skills
  • Participating in leisure activities such as sports, gardening, social activities, etc.

Occupational Therapists create and implement individual programs and strategies that meet each person’s specific needs. For example, if a person has lost the ability to play tennis due to a disability or injury, an Occupational Therapist will design specific exercises that help the patient work around their physical limitations so that they can continue to enjoy the sport.

senior woman opening jar with jar opener

An Occupational Therapist is able to help individuals become more productive because they:

  • Evaluate a person’s level of functioning, including self-care, work, study, and leisure
  • Teach self-management techniques
  • Help develop new work related skills when an individual is having difficulty with his or her vocational abilities
  • Design and implement disability prevention strategies
  • Create plans and self-help strategies to help clients with daily living activities
  • Monitor individual plans and redesign therapy strategies as needed

Where Occupational Therapists Work

Occupational Therapists work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Homes: Provided by private organizations and the Ontario government.
  • Communities: Clinics, health boards, group homes, halfway houses, and worker compensation boards.
  • Institutions: Hospitals, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centres, correctional institutions, schools, universities and colleges.
  • Businesses: Rehabilitation companies, insurance companies, and other corporations.
  • Government: Working with all levels of government to promote disability prevention, accessibility, international rehabilitation program development, and health planning.

How to Become an Occupational Therapist

Occupational Therapist with patient in a wheelchair

It takes a lot of vigour and time to become an Occupational Therapist. Since most patients have unique circumstances, OTs must have extensive health-related knowledge to work with so many dynamic cases. In order to become an Occupational Therapist in Canada, there are several requirements needed:

  • Bachelor’s Degree: Bachelors of Science or university degree with coursework including biology and physiology.
  • Master’s Degree: A professional Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from an accredited institution; this is the minimum entry requirement for this profession. There are 14 universities that offer Occupational Therapy programs (Master’s Degree), across Canada. Some OTs enter into the profession with a doctoral degree in the field. However, this is not a necessary requirement.
  • Field Experience: A minimum of 1,000 hours of supervised fieldwork experience.
  • Certification Exam: Completing the National Occupational Therapy Certification Exam (NOTCE) from the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT).
  • Council Membership: Become a member of the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario (COTO). Each province has a council that is responsible for the regulation of Occupational Therapy.

A lot of effort and dedication goes into becoming an Occupational Therapist, but for those that wish to help individuals live productive and satisfying lives, it’s worth it.  OTs help individuals overcome and adapt to an injury, illness, or disability – and for everything they do, they are truly appreciated.

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