Occupational Therapy



In 1910 Occupational Therapy was defined as the "science of healing by occupation".

Occupational therapy is a paramedical service taking care of the physical, psychological and social needs of the "disabled" person.

The main aim of the Occupational Therapist is to rehabilitate (maximum use of residual abilities) the patient enabling him to take his rightful place within society, his family circle and where possible, to return to gainful employment. This is done by rehabilitating the patient holistically, seeing to his physical and mental well being.

In short the concept of Occupational Therapy can be defined as treatment of man, the totality, through his active participation in purposeful activity.

Occupational Therapy can be found in different areas of the medical field:



The main aim of the Occupational Therapist is to help restore the patient emotionally and psychologically to reach the highest level of functioning possible. This allows the patient to return to the community with a degree of competence and independence, which is vital to his well being. This is further extended into how the patient relates within the work place, day to day activities and the constructive management of spare time. Social skills and stress management is very important areas of therapy. 


Children suffering from behavioural problems, attention deficits and other psychiatric problems are treated.


Occupational Therapists treat children with developmental delays and perceptual problems. Specialized treatment techniques is used with the aim of obtaining the child's highest functional level and to enable them to cope at school and consequently with life.


People with head injuries, spinal cord injuries and disabilities due to CVA's are frequently treated by the Occupational Therapist. Aspects such as physical, cognitive, visual perception, psychological and behavioural problems are all included with in the sphere of treatment. The goal once again being the promotion of the patient to his/her highest possible functional level. Some of the areas that receive attention is the patient's working environment, management of leisure time and the ability to cope with daily activities. The use of assistive devices as a part of daily living has to be taught to the spinal cord injured patient, as this is essential to his independent functioning. 

Internal Medicine

Cardiac Rehabilitation is geared towards returning the patient back into the community as a fully integrated and productive member of society. The complete rehabilitation of the patient's physical, emotional and psychological well being is treated. Once again the areas of time management, coping with stress and the activities of daily life are dealt with aggressively. The improvement of the patient's life-style, and the ability to cope within the working environment are all important aspects of treatment. 


The main aim of the Therapist is to be part of a support system. Being able to spend time "listening" to the problems that the patient may be experiencing is very important. This in turn leads to the Therapist being able to advise the patient on how best to cope with his/her daily activities. Counseling skills and management of the AIDS patient is of great importance in this area.

Orthopaedics and Surgery

Hand therapy is viewed as a specialist area within the field of Occupational Therapy. Splints are given, and muscle strength as well as range of movement treated to retain optimal function. Other injuries/illnesses dealt with by the Occupational Therapist are amputations, arthritis, spinal injuries and back problems, as well as hip and knee complications. The Occupational Therapist also provides important input in the treatment of burns. The therapist tries to restore the patient, as far as possible, to his/her normal functional capacity with regard to the dysfunctional area being treated.

Vocational Rehabilitation

"Vocational rehabilitation is defined by the ILO as being that part of the continued and coordinated process of rehabilitation, which involves the provision of vocational services, e.g. vocational guidance, vocational training, and selective placement, designed to enable a person with a disability to secure and retain suitable employment."

A physical or psychiatric impairment can sometimes influence the patient's ability to continue with his/her given employment. The task of the Occupational Therapist in this situation is to evaluate the patient's remaining skills within the framework of his/her disability, and to then analyze the prerequisites needed. The therapist can now make one of 5 possible recommendations - to remain in original employment with certain provisions, to obtain a new career, to obtain alternative open-, sheltered-or protective employment, or can advise permanent disability or unemployment.

Community Care

This entails mainly home visits by the Occupational Therapist. It allows the therapist to assess the needs of the patient within the home environment. Advice on how the family can cope with problems that may arise due to the patient's impairment is highly valued, and is seen as an important part of the community care offered. After care regarding return to work follow-up is essential in the success of holistic treatment.

OT is based on the belief that purposeful activity (occupation) including its interpersonal and environmental components may be used to prevent and mediate dysfunction and to elicit maximum adaptation. Activity as used by the OT includes both an intrinsic and a therapeutic purpose.