You may have heard of occupational therapy. It’s the field that focuses on helping people living with limitations and disabilities—children, seniors, and every age in between—to gain the skills they need to function in their lives.
Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy
Occupational therapy is not physical therapy. Both disciplines involve working with patients to improve their quality of life, but “occupational” and “physical” denote two different focuses.
What is physical therapy?
Physical therapy, as the name implies, concentrates on physical issues—muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints. A patient might work with a physical therapist after an injury or surgery to gain strength or range of motion in specific areas.
What is occupational therapy?
Occupational therapy, on the other hand, focuses on the activities that occupy our time: the tasks we might accomplish throughout the course of a day to earn a living, get an education, interact with the world, and take care of ourselves. When we’re limited by disease, injury, or other factors, an occupational therapist can help us to gain our abilities and independence.
Make a difference
Occupational therapy helps patients of all ages and touches many aspects of a person’s life. An occupational therapist might help a patient living with a mood or neurological disorder or someone who’s recently had a limb amputated. Occupational therapy can enable a child to attend school or a wheelchair-bound adult to get dressed and go to the grocery store.
The big occupational vs. physical therapy differentiator is really scope. Whereas physical therapy might deal with the mechanics and use of a particular part of the body, occupational therapy assesses, and works to improve, the overall function of a person in both body and mind.
What is Pre-Occupational Therapy, Exactly?
Pre-occupational therapy is a way to enter the occupational therapy field, find meaningful, rewarding work, and gain valuable experience. It’s the educational stepping stone to advance to become an occupational therapist.
To become a registered occupational therapist (OTR), you need to earn a Master of Science in occupational therapy (MSOT) from an ACOTE®-accredited occupational therapy (OT) program. (ACOTE stands for Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education.)
In the same way that an aspiring physician begins with a pre-med degree, a pre-occupational therapy bachelor’s degree is the degree to earn before you move on to earn your master’s and become an occupational therapist.
Before you can become an occupational therapy assistant or occupational therapist, you’ll need to pass the appropriate certification exam: either the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA®) exam or the Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR®) exam. To learn all about preparing for and taking these tests, visit the NBCOT (National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy) website.
Finding a Pre-Occupational Therapy Program in Michigan
You may want to begin as an occupational therapy assistant, to gain exposure and experience in the occupational therapy field. You also might like the idea of spending only two and a half years earning a specialized degree that will enable you to earn a living by helping people in important life-changing ways.