Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy (OT) addresses medical challenges that impair people’s ability to perform tasks in daily life. It includes skilled treatment that helps people return to performing ordinary, everyday tasks such as taking care of themselves or performing tasks around the home and at work or school following a serious injury or illness.

The ultimate goal of OT is to enable people to participate in the activities that give meaning and purpose to their lives, and to maximize their potential, self-reliance, quality of life and independence. Sometimes, this requires the use of assistive devices, modifications to the home or work environment or addressing choices of activities for improved health from a chronic health problem.

Who Benefits from Occupational Therapy?

Patients who are experiencing functional deficits due to these and other conditions may benefit from OT:

  • Stroke
  • Cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Arthritis (osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Head injuries
  • Amputations
  • Burns
  • Visual, sensory, cognitive or perceptual problems
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Cancer
  • Multiple sclerosis or other serious chronic conditions
  • Deconditioning and functional decline due to a serious illness/injury

Comprehensive Diagnostic & Treatment Resources

  • In-depth evaluations of strength, joint motion, coordination, dexterity, and endurance to perform activities
  • Performance evaluations of ability to perform self-care activities and other activities such as meal preparation, home management, community mobility, leisure and other activities
  • Customized treatment programs to help maximize function for daily living.
    • Treatment activities may include exercise, self-care tasks, crafts, leisure and work-related activities
    • Tasks and activities to improve coordination, range of motion, strength and endurance
    • Training in joint protection, body mechanics and energy conservation
    • Upper extremity management, including splinting
    • Addressing daily routines and choices of activities for improved health
  • Comprehensive home and/or job-site evaluation and recommendations for adaptations to make the environment as safe and “user-friendly” as possible
  • Needs assessment and recommendations for adaptive equipment
  • Training on how to use assistive devices for successful performance of activities
  • Family members and caregiver education
  • Discharge recommendations following inpatient OT

Common Terms Used in Occupational Therapy

  • Adaptive equipment – Devices that help people with a physical impairment to write, read, move, speak, hear and otherwise conduct normal activities. These can include items to assist a patient in their Activities of Daily Living (ADL) such as cooking, bathing, dressing, etc. Also called assistive devices.
  • Activities of Daily Living (ADL) – Activities that are part of taking care of oneself such as dressing, bathing, toileting and eating.
  • Functional – Generally, functional refers to something able to fulfill its purpose or function. In rehabilitation, functional exercise refers to exercise that helps a patient resume his or her regular activities or functions.
  • Mobility – The ability of a person to move around and change position. A person with a mobility impairment may have difficulty with walking, standing, lifting, climbing stairs, carrying, balancing or having the stamina and endurance to do these kinds of activities.
  • Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) – Activities that are considered part of normal everyday life such as shopping for and preparing a meal, cleaning your home, caring for your child, balancing your checkbook, going to work or school, enjoying leisure activities at home or in the community.

At Keck Hospital of USC, our Occupational Therapists (OTs) work closely with the other therapy specialists in giving you streamlined access to their expertise when needed. In addition, there is close collaboration between the therapists and USC’s Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, one of the top programs in the country and a prestigious center of excellence for the clinical practice, education and research of occupational therapy.

For more information about cccupational therapy, visit USC’s Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: If I don’t have an occupation — a job outside the home — why would I need occupational therapy?
A: In occupational therapy, “occupation” refers to meaningful and important activities that you perform as a part of your daily life. Perhaps you are a homemaker, or you are retired and love to garden. If an injury, illness or a chronic health problem has impaired your physical, cognitive or psychosocial abilities to perform the tasks involved in these activities, occupational therapy can help you regain your prior skills to do them, relearn them, or learn how to do them in a different way. Occupational therapy can also teach you how to use special adaptive devices so that you can maintain your independence.

Last modified: September 10, 2015