There is increasing talk of occupational therapy, also called ergotherapy, especially in its application on people with deficits, cognitive or mental disabilities, and the elderly. But let’s take a closer look at what it is and what the benefits are.
What is Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy is known by many names, including “ergotherapy” and also with an English term: “occupational therapy.” As written in the preamble, it is a rehabilitation discipline that deals with disabilities to provide. Each person with the skills necessary to successfully and serenely face work. But it is not only this: what is occupational therapy in the broad sense also analyzes. All the potential environmental barriers (for example,e architectural ones) can prevent disadvantaged people from making the best use of the workplace.
To give a classic example: do you remember the Italian buildings up to the 1980s? Public offices, companies, universities, libraries? How many of them had a ramp to allow access for the disabled? How many had elevators inside them? A “simple” obstacle like this is enough to prevent a paraplegic person. From entering society and relating to culture, education, public administration, the world of work.
Fortunately, increased sensitivity on these issues has, over time, created ad hoc laws aimed at eliminating architectural barriers of all kinds. But this is obviously not sufficient to provide the necessary assistance. To every person affected by the particular difficulties of a psycho-physical nature.
It was, therefore, essential that a professional figure known as an occupational therapist developed. It is a woman or a man who has followed in-depth studies on the subject. The therapist’s tools are activities, a word that includes many types of exercises, as varied as the disabilities he will face.
History of occupational therapy
Occupational therapy has its origins in the distant 18th century thanks to Philippe Pinel’s work, a famous French psychiatrist. Pinel was the first to analyze and treat the mentally ill, avoiding the mistake of associating them with other “social outcasts” (according to the canons of the time) such as alcoholics, vagabonds, prostitutes, beggars. Not only did Pinel carry out a physiological analysis of the disease. But he came to be the first to propose teaching people with mental problems work-related activities. That would allow them to learn to focus on a single task, to provide patients greater autonomy and psychophysical growth.
Although some “cures” proposed by Pinel (ice showers, restraint, unbalanced diets, isolation) would be highly questionable by modern standards, what makes his work current is precisely the attention to ergotherapy. In the Bicêtre asylum, Pinel tested his theories for the first time in the file. And the successes obtained made him continue his work of recovering the mentally ill through occupational therapy. The Napoleonic regime highly esteemed this doctor’s work (which was ideally based on the principles of equality of the French Revolution).
As often happens, war influences human discoveries, not only those of mechanical science but also those of medicine and related activities. And tens of thousands of soldiers returned from battlefields with severe physical and mental) impairments. These young people needed to sacrifice their integrity by losing an arm or a leg in the appalling conflict.
The numerous contexts and areas of work of the occupational therapist
It is surprising how numerous are the contexts in which the occupational therapist can go to operate. Not only in the hospital,s therefore, but also in normal assistance services (for sub-acute cases) and community settings and clinics.
As for the areas of work, we present some of them, but obviously,y this is not an exhaustive list:
Orthopedics: What is Occupational Therapy
The therapist will focus his recovery activity on fractures and tendon injuries and the patient’s nervous system. He will also try to recover from even dire situations caused by rheumatic diseases and amputations. It goes without saying that this branch of occupational therapy was the first ever to develop following the two world wars. And the terrible wounds that maimed tens of thousands of soldiers worldwide.
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The therapist will recover as much autonomy as possible in people affected by diseases related to advanced age,e such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. For assisting the elderly (often relatives but sometimes also of or carers). It should be remembered that the relatives of the patient are the best therapist who knows. How to follow him with attention and love. Experience has shown how relatives (children or grandchildren who may be) know how to follow the occupational therapist’s instructions with enormous care and can. With their continuous and tireless presence, instill trust and optimism in the elderly affected by these cruel disabling disease.
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Even people who suffer from mental disorders such as autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia have the right to receive an education. Over time, that leads them to enter the world of work to acquire autonomy (if not full independence). In this case, the occupational therapist must exercise the utmost attention in approaching. The patient’s particular mental characteristics could make the first meetings and the initial exercises difficult. In this case,e the password will be “patience”; only with it will it be possible to gain the trust of an autistic boy or to be able to relate effectively to a bipolar person.
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Pediatrics: What is Occupational Therapy
Als,o in this case, as in that of geriatrics, the therapist will not only interface with the patient but also with family members. Who will be involved in all occupational exercises? These include simple games but also social skill activities and actual education activities. It goes without saying that the child is a very delicate patient. The utmost attention must be paid not only from a physical but also a psychological point of view. Suppose the young patient is also suffering from disorders such as autism or bipolarity.
The attention must be more than doubled, as well as the patience and support for family members. These already prostrate for the normal difficulties related to the child’s simple growth. Will be supported in all the additional work related to the child’s occupational recovery. Never as in this case, will the figure of the occupational therapist be linked. That of the psychologist who should (as far as possible) act in synergy with the therapist himself to provide families with both “physical” and psychological help, obviously to be projected into the future for at least a few months, if not a few years.
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How occupational therapy takes place: What is Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy takes place in groups or individually. The subject is involved in activities that aim to improve life quality, despite the disability, thanks to physical and manual activities. First, the occupational therapist will perform a patient medical history. We will refer to personal history, pathology, emotional state up to the need to formulating a personalized plan for the activities to be carried out.
Occupational therapy involves both individual and group activities. Both have the objective of reintegrating the person into their environment, including both the family and the community. It,s in fact, an indispensable step to planning the activity in the following steps and monitoring the changes relating to the patient.
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Subjects affected by occupational therapy
The subjects affected by occupational therapy activities are permanent or temporary deficits and disabilities, both mental and physical. Thanks to employment, even an individual with limited motor-sensory, cognitive, perceptual,l or emotional-relational abilities will be able to take care of himself, organize work or school activities and manage his own free time.
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How to become an Occupational Therapist
The occupational therapist is the health worker who specialized in the prevention, treatment,t and rehabilitation interventions for subjects suffering. From physical and mental illnesses and disorders who have both temporary. And permanent disability, basing his professional practice on using the motor, expressive, manual activities, playful and cognitive. These activities include basic ones (dressing, washing, looking after oneself, moving around in space) and more complex daily activities (cooking, using the phone or computer, driving).
The therapeutic intervention is based, in fact, on the proper activist,y which is evaluated, test,d and adapted according to the personal needs and abilities of the person with any disability and any age.
Placing his medical, psychological, cognitive, social,l, and technical skills at the patient’s disposal and the functional and psychological evaluation of the subject carried out. This professional guides, supports, and advice in the choice of objectives. And the privileged and preferred form of treatment, providing. For a rehabilitation program aimed at identifying and overcoming the needs of the person. And starting them towards personal autonomy in the daily environment and the social fabric. Also verifying the correspondences between the rehabilitation methodology implemented and the objectives of functional and psychosocial recovery.
But even before defining the treatment or intervention program, the occupational therapist evaluates the presence of various elements since he must orient his instruments of action both on the person and on the environment in which he lives and on the activities he carries out, trying to maximize participation in activities that the patient considers important to himself.
Becoming an Occupational Therapist: the training path
The three-year degree course in Occupational Therapy, belonging to the L / SNT2 degree class of the health professions of rehabilitation. And already qualifying for the profession provides for different types of teaching activities. Lectures, laboratory exercises, practical lessons in classrooms equipped with rehabilitation facilities o assistance devices. And internships carried out in structures of the National Health Service or affiliated centers. The basic disciplines allow graduates of the class to be able to understand. The physio-pathological processes on which they’re preventive. And therapeutic intervention is focused, aimed at promoting health and well-being in the disabled person through occupations. Those actions are usually carried out in daily life, from work to moments of leisure, to family and social life.
The skills acquired at the end of the training course allow direct insertion into the world of wor. Still, it is possible to continue their studies with the second level master’s degree in Rehabilitation Sciences of the Health Professions and the first level masters. Graduates can also carry out study, research, teaching and tutoring activities, consultant,y, and support activities in all areas in which their professionalism is required. Access to courses is limited to a national level.
What does the Occupational Therapist do?
This health worker works on the doctor’s prescription. Evaluates the functional abilities of the disabled patient to propose and implement treatment. An intervention plan aimed at optimizing abilities by compensating for disabilities, minimizing disability situation,s and adapting the environment in which the subject lives to favor maximum autonomy.
The occupational therapist:
- evaluates the deficits and needs of the person through budgets and implementation of activities
- re-educates the patient by making use of activities such as playing, making objects, making devices that make movements easier
- re-educates the patient to participate in the occupations of daily life
- his treatment project considers the person’s life project. But the therapeutic project of the multidisciplinary team with which he usually interacts and collaborates.
The occupational therapist analyzes the physical effects of an injury or illness and considers the psychosocial. And environmental factors influence an individual’s ability to ac through interviews, assessment s, and actions in concrete situations. Evaluate the patient’s strengths and weaknesses. Collecting information on how he usually carries out his activities and the environmental context in which he moves and lives.
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The professional profile of the Occupational Therapist
” The occupational therapist is the health worker who, in possession of a qualifying university diploma, works in the field of prevention, care, and rehabilitation of subjects suffering from physical and mental illnesses. And disorders with both temporary and permanent disabilities use expressive activities, manuals-representative, playful, and everyday life. The occupational therapist, concerning the diagnosis and the doctor’s prescriptions. Within the scope of their competences and in collaboration with other socio-health figures:
- carries out a functional and psychological assessment of the subject and elaborates, also in a multidisciplinary team. The definition of the rehabilitation program, aimed at identifying and overcoming the needs of the disabled person. And at his or her start towards personal autonomy in the daily life environment and the fabric social;
- treats physical, mental,l and psychiatric conditions, temporary or permanent, addressing patients of all ages; uses both individual and group activities, promoting the recovery and optimal use of functions aimed. At the reintegration, adaptation,n, and integration of the individual in their personal, domestic and social environment;
- identifies and enhances the motivational aspects and the potential for adaptation of the individual, typical of the occupational therapeutic specificity;
- participates in the choice and design of orthoses jointly or as an alternative to specific aids;
- proposes, where necessary, modifications of the living environment and promotes educational actions.
- Verifies the correspondence between the rehabilitation methodology implemented and the objectives of functional and psychosocial recovery “.
Where does an Occupational Therapist Work?
The occupational therapist can carry out his professional activity within the National Health System’s welfare and socio-health structures and affiliated and private health. And rehabilitation structures, health centers, home, workplaces, schools and special schools, retirement homes, geriatric institutions, psycho-pedagogical institutes, family assistance programs, and all those organizations capable of allowing rehabilitation services by carrying out, as mentioned, a functional and psychological assessment of the subject and elaborating the definition of the rehabilitation program.