Five Common Myths and Misconceptions Regarding Occupational Therapy That Need To End

Occupational Therapy is the only branch of health care that helps people with poor motor skills to perform their daily activities after their recovery from injuries, illness, or disability. It teaches people of

Occupational Therapy is the only branch of health care that helps people with poor motor skills to perform their daily activities after their recovery from injuries, illness, or disability. It teaches people of

Occupational Therapy has been around since the 1890s, when medical trends started to shift from simple disease treatment to more holistic patient care. However, even after two centuries, the field is still largely misunderstood by the population it hopes to serve. It’s the 21st century, and as Occupational Therapy’s importance in the modern Health Care World is becoming more apparent, it’s high time that these misconceptions are finally laid to rest.

The name itself provides a plethora of misunderstandings. For a lot of people, Occupational Therapy must mean therapy for people undergoing stress concerning their occupation. While work-related concerns are part of what Occupational Therapists do, the scope of their work is more vast.

So what is Occupational Therapy? In simple terms, Occupational Therapy helps people achieve their full potential and live their best life by encouraging them to engage in potentially beneficial tasks or activities (hence the word “occupation”). The scope of an Occupational Therapist’s job is to aid and guide patients from across all demographics to become better versions of themselves by evaluating all aspects of their life, identifying problem points, and helping patients overcome these problems through helpful occupations.

Occupational Therapists deal mainly with patients with activities of daily living (ADL) deficiency or people who are unable to do routine tasks and perform basic activities due to injury, physical and mental disability, disease, and old age. Occupational therapists recommend various tasks and activities that are both healthy and enjoyable. The goal is to make the rehabilitation process or the return to normalcy as smooth as possible for the patient, will caring for their mental well-being as well.

Myth #2: If You’re Struggling With Mundane Things, You are Just Bad At Life

The aim of an Occupational Therapist is to ensure that people live their best lives and reach their full potential. However, people, who need this kind of therapy the most are unaware that they require therapy at all. This is because humans falsely believe that because humans are not created equal, it is perfectly normal to see people struggling with life.

Hence, if you are someone who struggles to maintain relationships, keep jobs, perform basic household chores, and if you are finding it hard to enjoy life the best you can, it is simply because you are less skilled at navigating through life compared to other people. However, this is false. Occupational Therapy believes that for patients who are unable to carry out the simplest of human tasks, there is usually an underlying problem that is preventing them from doing so.

Occupational Therapists usually start with an evaluation wherein they speak to potential clients to gain a better understanding of their goals and their struggles in life. OTs then create a plan, each one specific to each individual, wherein the goal is to help the patient overcome their struggles. The therapist continually monitors the patient to ensure that they are making steady progress to their goal.

Occupational Therapists are trained to keep their minds open. For example, simple problems such as the inability to get out of bed in the morning may seem like the problem of a lazy and unmotivated individual to normal people, but Occupational Therapists have successfully unearthed serious underlying problems from undiagnosed physical and mental health problems to environmental causes.

Myth #3: Children Don’t Require Occupational Therapy

Anxious parents have been told to leave the development of their children alone. If a child doesn’t hit developmental milestones at the rate that his peers do, parents are usually advised to allow their children to grow at their pace as they will eventually hit those milestones in due time.

However, advancements in Pediatric Occupational Therapy have proven that early intervention can prevent future development problems in children and even death in high-risk infants. Pediatric OTs have started working in Neonatal intensive care units to evaluate infants and determine those who are at risk for aspiration, malnutrition, and even death. It is believed that the first few days of a newborn’s life are imperative to their future development, so any deviation from normal breathing and feeding patterns can result in problems later on.

Intervention from an Occupational Therapist is also extremely beneficial during the first few years of a child’s life. Most parents shrug off developmental delays in hopes that their child will reach milestones naturally in their own time. Usually, when parents seek the help of a Pediatrician for developmental delays, it has advanced to the point where serious treatment is necessary.

One of Occupational Therapy’s biggest focal points is prevention, so it aims to identify pain points in a patient’s life before it becomes a huge detriment to their lifestyle. Seeking the help of a Pediatric Occupational Therapist for developmental delays in your child can ultimately prevent learning disabilities and other problems later on. Preventive measures and treatments in children are usually successful, as children are more receptive towards the exploration of healthy and enjoyable occupations.

While Child Psychiatrists exist, the role of an Occupational Therapist is more client-centered. While the former is concerned with the direct treatment of the condition or disease, the latter is more focused on allowing the child to live as normally as possible. This involves counseling parents and educators on how to properly manage the patient. The OT also evaluates the child’s environment to determine points where intervention may be beneficial.

Myth #4: Occupational Therapy is Non-Essential Branch of Medicine

The biggest point naysayers have against the practice of Occupational Therapy is that there are enough health professionals to go around, and the field of Occupational Therapy seemingly overlaps with other fields. For example, people don’t feel the need for occupational therapy in treating persons who are recovering from injuries due to the presence of physical therapists. And occupational therapists are redundant in the mental health field because psychiatrists and psychologists exist.

However, occupational therapy’s role in the well-being of patients across all demographics has been proven time and time again. While specialists focus on the treatment of the disease, occupational therapists are more concerned about the welfare of the patient and ensuring that the process to wellness is comfortable and seamless. The scope of an occupational therapist’s work is more than just treatment – they are also concerned with the prevention, steady progress, maintenance, and aftercare.

Proof of Occupational Therapy’s importance lies in its inclusion into the Primary Health Care Model, placing it in the same hierarchy as vital health care services. While other specializations focus on the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses and conditions, occupational therapy plays a vital role in the prevention, rehabilitation of patients, and restoration of normal human functions and activities.

Myth #5: Occupational Therapists Aren’t Real Doctors

Because the scope of Occupational Therapy is vast and unknown to many, it has been unfortunately lumped together with new age practices and other forms of alternative medicine such as Aromatherapy, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, and Hydrotherapy. However, unlike other methods, Occupational Therapy is backed by science and recognized by the medical world as a legitimate field.

This doesn’t prevent people from seeing Occupational Therapists as quacks since OTs work on a variety of conditions and diseases, unlike specialists that have a narrower scope. The road to becoming an Occupational Therapists is a long and arduous one.

Before a person can practice Occupational Therapy, they must first earn a Bachelor’s degree. After graduating, they must then seek admission at a credited Occupational Therapy Master’s Degree program. Most programs will accept graduates from courses that are not directly related to Occupational Therapy, although a medically inclined course may help make the journey easier. However, this doesn’t mean that Occupational Therapy programs are laxer compared to other medical programs. Applicants need to finish pre-requisite coursework, provide relevant work experience and pass the appropriate exams.

After securing a Master’s degree, they can now work in the field as researchers and educators. But to legally practice Occupational Therapy as a profession, they must first pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, or the NBCOT. With the need for rigorous field training, education, and certification, Occupational Therapists are regarded as legitimate healthcare professionals of the medical field.

The Occupational Therapy field is continuously evolving and advancing. However, the field is continuously undergoing scrutiny from other health care professionals who feel that OTs are encroaching on their territory and from people who have a misguided understanding as to what the field is.

Occupational Therapy continues to thrive, and the field has seen positive job growth rates of 27% from 2014 to 2024, which is living proof that there is a rising demand for OTs in the modern health care world. It is also proof that people are starting to learn about the true scope of an Occupational Therapist’s work and the vital role they play in the cycle of patient care.