A typical reaction to someone seeing photos of an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) helping someone with an injury or disability is often met with confusion and the question "what does an occupational therapy assistant do?" It's a fair question! "Occupational therapy" is so much more than helping people return to work-type occupations. In fact, "occupation" refers to any daily activity and routine that occupies someone's life on any typical day.
Perhaps the most straight-forward answer to "what does an occupational therapy assistant do?" is this description: an OTA is a dedicated healthcare professional who loves interacting with people and likes to find creative solutions that help their clients gain independence.
It's All About Activities, Plans, and Encouragement
The OTA's goal is to help individuals live as independently as they possibly can. OTAs are highly skilled, compassionate healthcare practitioners who work in partnership with the people they serve. An OTA works as part of a team with an occupational therapist (OT) to deliver an occupational therapy plan.
The team works directly with clients, so the team can take a lot of pride in seeing someone achieve their milestones. You'll be working with clients of all ages and from all backgrounds, and every OT plan is individually tailored to meet specific client needs.
Some examples of the duties and responsibilities of an OTA:
- For an injury recovery situation, the OTA helps assess the person's current capability and what he or she wants to accomplish. Those recovering from hip surgery, for example, need to know how to get in and out of bed without putting undue stress on a body that's healing.
- Someone who has a mental health condition may feel alone and isolated, so the OTA might carry out a series of activities to improve that person's self-esteem and increase their confidence in social situations.
- A child who has fallen behind developmentally may be frustrated because they struggle to accomplish daily living activities ranging from getting dressed to staying organized. An OTA is there to observe, guide, and make suggestions, such as how to break a task down into simple steps.
As part of the OTA workforce, you'll be involved in varied intervention types to ensure each client is making progress toward personal goals. The five areas of intervention can be thought of as occupations and activities, preparatory methods and task, education and training, advocacy, and group interventions.
You can gain an excellent grasp of what OTAs do within each area by reading this blog.
Reflections on "What Does an Occupational Therapy Assistant Do"?
Of course, every OTA will have a different perspective on this unique helping profession.
"You are always looking for new and creative ways to help clients address their day-to-day challenges. It is a lifelong profession." That quote about the variety, excitement and joy of becoming an OTA professional comes from OTA Jennifer F., who also is an OTA program instructor.
The 2-Year OTA Degree Program at Cleveland University-Kansas City
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a private, nonprofit, healthcare-focused university that offers an accelerated A.A.S. in Occupational Therapy Assistant degree program. Focused 8-week courses enhance learning, and patient interaction begins as early as the second semester. Students typically complete their degree in as little as two years.
Our year-round schedule means you begin when you're ready. New classes start in spring, summer, and fall every year.
Learn more about the two-year OTA degree by contacting CUKC today. Explore the question "what does an occupational therapy assistant do" further by downloading a free ebook: Your Complete Guide to the Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.