What are the Differences Between Occupational and Physical Therapy?

It’s an understandable mistake.

When most people hear “occupational therapy,” they think of preparing someone to go back to their job.

The word “occupation” can provide some confusion, especially when you realize there are several different kinds of rehabilitative therapies—including physical therapy.

We’ll break down what these therapies are to clearly show you the differences between occupational and physical therapy.

What Is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy helps people regain skills that enable them to participate in daily life.

For example, if someone had a stroke, they may have difficulty brushing their teeth or putting on their socks. Occupational therapists would help this person by showing them new ways to complete these tasks and practicing these skills.

The goal is to make the individual as independent as possible.

Occupational therapists can also help those who have disabilities or who have had a serious injury. Older adults experiencing physical and cognitive issues can also be helped.

When you begin occupational therapy, your therapist will work with you to determine your goals and the steps needed to reach them.

These therapists may also suggest adaptive equipment. This may be the form of specialized spoons or devices that can assist with putting on socks.

What Sort of Training is Needed to Become an Occupational Therapist?

At the absolute minimum, occupational therapists need a master’s degree from an Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE®)-accredited educational program.

In addition to passing stringent licensing and certification requirements, all graduates must demonstrate practical skills. This includes 24 weeks of monitored practice experience.

What Is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is the type of therapy most people think of when they hear the word “rehabilitation.”

Physical therapists help you maintain the maximum body movement possible. For example, they may help you learn to walk again after a hip replacement. They may work with you on a range of motion exercises to increase your reach. They may also help you with balance and coordination.

What Sort of Training Is Needed to Be a Physical Therapist?

A doctor of physical therapy degree is required from a Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education-accredited physical therapist education program. These programs are typically three years long. Upon completing the program, the therapist must pass a state licensure exam.

Differences Between Occupational and Physical Therapy?

First, there are a lot of similarities between the two:

  • Both work with patients to help them function better in day-to-day life.
  • Both work closely together as part of a treatment team
  • Both set treatment goals

The biggest difference is that physical therapists concentrate on larger motor skills (standing, walking, reaching) while occupational therapists focus on fine motor skills and their role in everyday living (for example, devising better ways to help someone brush their teeth if they have severe limitations.)

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