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Occupational therapy

Occupational therapy
If you're finding some tasks or occupations difficult because of an injury, illness, disability or a major life change, you may need help from an occupational therapist.

When people experience injury, illness or disability or a major life change they have to adapt their routines and occupations (everyday activities). Occupational therapists work with people of all ages who have complex needs or circumstances which mean they require expert advice and guidance.

An occupational therapist analyses the person’s strengths, skills and needs in carrying out occupations. Possible solutions are then developed with the person, such as exploring alternative ways to doing activities or making changes to the environment.

Occupational therapists in the United Kingdom are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council.

How can an occupational therapist help?

An occupational therapist may:

  • teach you new ways of carrying out everyday tasks, like getting in and out of the bath
  • work with you to regain confidence following a crisis or change in circumstances such as time in hospital
  • help you to manage tiredness or pain, so you can continue with daily living
  • recommend equipment so you can continue to do activities and tasks for yourself
  • work with you on ways of coping with anxiety and negative feelings
  • advise you on how to minimise the risk of having a fall, including what you can do to make your home safer
  • advise on how to maintain your health, strength and abilities, such as protecting your joints
  • make recommendations on seating and positioning
  • advise carers how they can support you to stay active
  • demonstrate to carers how they can assist with practical tasks, like using equipment to move you safely

How can I get occupational therapy?

Anyone, of any age, can get help from an occupational therapist if they need it.

You can refer yourself to an occupational therapist by contacting your local council's social care department.

If you prefer, you can ask your GP, nurse, social worker, or other health or social care professional to refer you to an occupational therapist.

If you're in hospital, you can ask to see an occupational therapist if you've not been referred automatically.

To arrange a private consultation with an independent occupational therapist who will charge you a fee, visit the Royal College of Occupational Therapists to find a local independent occupational therapist.

Further information

Find out more about occupational therapy from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists.

Read the leaflets by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists about how you, or someone you care for, can get the most from life. They also have a toolkit on living well through activities in care homes. The toolkit offers advice on best practice in terms of older peoples’ rights to engage in daily activities that support their health and wellbeing.

The information was last updated on: 12th December 2017


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