How to Answer the "What is Occupational Therapy" Question

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AOTA's Checking the Pulse blog is written by digital editor Stephanie Yamkovenko who reads hundreds of health and policy articles weekly to find the most engaging and enlightening content. Go beyond the news and learn how it affects OT.

How to Answer the "What is Occupational Therapy" Question

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We want to share some resources and videos that you can use when people ask you, “what is occupational therapy?”

Of course you know what your profession is, but it helps to have concise and easy talking points or handouts to share with people who are curious about OT. By the way, you might start hearing the question more often with last week’s news that occupational therapy is one of the 10 best jobs of 2014 (according to CareerCast).

AOTA’s Vice President, Amy Lamb, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA, has been spreading the message lately of the importance of articulating occupational therapy’s distinct value. She says it’s not enough to say that OT is unique, which is a vague description that doesn’t get across the value of the profession. Occupational therapy practitioners and students can get help articulating OT’s distinct value by watching and sharing this video:

Another video to share is the “Because of OT” video developed by 2013 UBC MOT students. In a very simple way, the video introduces several people who have occupations or activities that have been disrupted due to illness, disability, or injury. The video then outlines ways that occupational therapy can help them return to their valued occupations.

If you want to have a brochure that describes occupational therapy to share in your facility, school, etc., check out AOTA’s What is OT brochures. We have brochures that answer the five main questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how. There’s a brochure that goes over OT in general, and about OT with children & youth and OT with older adults. You can download a PDF of the brochure to print or you can buy them in our store in packs of 25 (general, children, and older adults).    

Talking Tips:
Want some tips for talking to people about occupational therapy? Check out AOTA’s tips here, which include keeping it simple, planning ahead of time, and remembering to describe the full picture of the profession.

If you are looking to describe occupational therapy’s role in a specific practice area or on a certain topic, browse our About Occupational Therapy section of for tip sheets and fact sheets.

  • Great, thanks! I recently wrote a little something about what OT is and is not on my blog at

    I included in a poem form since April is also National Poetry Month. Here is the direct link if anyone is interested:

    Hope you'll add to it, pass it on, and enjoy!

  • Thank you for the link, Joan! I will definitely check it out. Happy OT Month! :)

  • I posted the same question in a discussion group with LinkedIn.  It was a great experience to exchange ideas with other therapists, here and abroad.  This is a summary of all the ideas that were brought up:

    "As part of the rehab team, OTs help people get back to the daily tasks and responsibilities they have to fulfill as part of their role in life.  We identify and analyze they activities our client need to do everyday.  Through our skills as OTs, we are able to determine how the illness or disease process affect our client’s ability to successfully do the activities that are important to them.  We then use our therapy sessions to help our clients relearn the skills they need, overcome physical, emotional, cognitive and environmental barriers.  We do this using a combination of exercises, task practice, coping strategies and assistive technologies.  In the end, our goal is to help our client be as independent as possible."

  • As a student, this is a great resource to avoid continually stumbling over my words while describing my future profession.  Thank you for the consolidated information!

  • This question comes up so frequently, I finally just went ahead and made a page on my blog about it! I hope it is helpful!