Occupational Therapy vs Physical Therapy: What’s The Difference

When a doctor refers a person to an occupational therapist, the individual might not understand what the therapist will help them with. Most people are familiar with physical therapy and understand it is often recommended after an injury or illness. They don’t know much about occupational therapy and wonder why they might be asked to take part. The following guide provides a basic overview of the two disciplines, their job outlooks, and more.

Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, or Both?

The purpose of occupational therapy is to help a person gain the skills they need to complete daily living activities. Physical therapy, in contrast, focuses on helping a person regain or improve their mobility. Physical therapy focuses on rehabilitating the body while occupational focuses on physical rehabilitation along with mental healthcare.

Occupational Therapy

The role of an occupational therapist is to help patients adapt, modify, or change activities they wish or need to do. Making these alterations will allow them to complete the tasks while taking their skill level into consideration. The therapist might adapt an activity or make changes to the environment so the person can complete the task. They might also help a person improve their fine motor skills so they can carry out the tasks. When a patient has a mental health challenge, the therapist works with them to develop positive coping skills to overcome the challenge.

An occupational therapist helps patients solve problems so they can become more independent. This individual considers all aspects of a patient’s life and creates a treatment plan to meet this person’s unique needs. When doing so, they take into consideration physical, mental, and environmental factors that impact the patient’s participation in different activities. A person might choose to work as an occupational therapist because they know doing so will benefit the lives of others. It’s a very fulfilling career.

Physical Therapists

Physical therapists focus on a person’s movements and work on improving mobility. They do so with the help of hands-on care or by prescribing exercises the patient can do at home. Furthermore, they educate patients on ways to improve mobility. Much like occupational therapists, physical therapists work to help patients live the lives they desire, in which mobility plays a large role.

The physical therapist works with the patient to help them move easier. Reducing the patient’s pain is a major part of this, and the therapist will also work to improve the patient’s gross motor skills. Doing so allows them to be more independent because their body functions better. Most people develop gross motor skills when they are young, and these skills are needed throughout life because they control the movement of large body parts and ensure these parts work together.

Patients are often referred to a physical therapist after they have suffered an injury. The therapist helps the patient recover from this injury while working to prevent further injury. A person’s quality of life is only as good as their ability to move freely without pain.

The therapist develops a treatment plan that focuses on improving the patient’s ability to move. The goal is to help them achieve this goal without the need for surgery or pain medications. At the same time, the therapist takes into consideration the emotional impacts of the injury and their effect on the patient.

Pursuing a Career as a Physical Therapist or Occupational Therapist

Occupational and physical therapists work with many of the same patients. They treat infants and senior citizens alike. Professionals from both fields are found in hospitals and private practices. They may work in long-term care facilities or early intervention programs. They may also work with professional athletes, at gyms, or in patients’ homes.

America’s population is aging, which means more occupational and physical therapists will be needed in the coming years. Anyone looking for a meaningful career should consider working as a physical or occupational therapist. Those who pursue training in one of these fields will always find plenty of job opportunities open to them.