Why and When Do I Need an Occupational Therapist?

Best Occupational Therapist in Hackney London

Occupational therapy is among many treatment options for those with injuries and disabilities. An occupational therapist (OT) can help those individuals complete daily tasks. But how do you know when you need an OT versus another healthcare professional?

Occupational therapists can help many kinds of people. After an injury or because of a disability, you may struggle with daily life. An occupational therapist can help restore your quality of life. These professionals do this by focusing on your important goals and how to achieve them. 

If you are unsure about hiring an occupational therapist, read on. These professionals may offer exactly what you need to restore your quality of life.

The Basics of Occupational Therapy

Before looking into specific circumstances, let’s have a clear understanding of what an occupational therapist does. This will help you understand what these professionals provide. 

An Occupational Therapist is a highly specialised individual. Their training includes a scientific degree as well as knowledge of many professional standards. OTs apply their knowledge to benefit all aspects of a patient’s life, including assistance with physical and mental health.

OTs work with people of all ages and backgrounds. Their goal is not just to help people complete the necessary day-to-day tasks. It is also to help people engage in activities that are most meaningful in their lives. OTs appear in many places as they pursue this goal. Some of these include the following:

  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • At the client’s home
  • Nursing homes 

An OT can apply their skills to many different patients. But how do they go about doing that?

Who Occupational Therapists Can Help?

OTs work with individuals to meet specific goals. Since everyone has different ‘occupations’ that are meaningful  to them, an OT must always tailor their services to meet unique needs. Most often, OTs help:

  • Children
  • The elderly
  • Those with physical disabilities
  • Those with mental health issues
  • Those with learning disabilities

Regardless of your condition, finding an OT is a great idea if you struggle with daily life. They will help you change your habits and environment to support your well-being. The result is a boost in your quality of life, ultimately leading to an increase in your overall quality of life and happiness.

When to Hire an OT?

Deciding to hire an OT is an individual choice. But in general, find an OT when you are struggling to carry out basic tasks. You may also have passions that your injury or disability prevents you from pursuing. This is another area in which the service of an OT can be invaluable.

There is a broad range of services an OT can give. But there are also some specific cases where they prove to be especially helpful.

Common Cases in Which an OT Can Be Helpful

The work of an occupational therapist can benefit many individuals. However, there remain several scenarios that call for the specialised support of an OT.

An OT has the necessary expertise to assist those with the following conditions:

  • Autism
  • Strokes
  • Dementia

These are just a few of the settings in which OT is valuable. There are plenty of additional applications of OT (you can find more information on our website). But for now, let’s begin by covering the conditions listed above.

Occupational Therapy for Those with Autism

The term ‘spectrum’ is an apt descriptor for the many differences between autistic individuals. Since autism comes with so many variations, there are equally varying care needs. 

For instance, here is a list of some of the many ways that autism can affect an individual’s life:

  • Extreme anxiety
  • Intense focus on specific activities
  • Repetitive behaviour
  • Social and communication challenges
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and touch

Sometimes, autism appears as a mild learning disability. Other times, those with autism will have social challenges but also great skills in another area. These cases often don’t call for professional assistance. But there are more extreme cases of autism in which can become debilitating.

When to Use an OT to Help with Autism

Even intense forms of autism shouldn’t prevent someone from living a full life. An OT can make sure that that doesn’t happen. As with any condition, individuals and their caregivers need to weigh their care options carefully. However, there are some presentations of autism that need help in their daily lives.

One such example is those who are non-verbal or with selective mutism. These presentation means that the person with autism does not speak or only speaks on rare occasions. But this doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. They just need to find different means to do so, such as:

  • Visual symbols/cues
  • Communication boards 
  • Sign language or Makaton

An OT can help to develop these pathways of communication. They can find ways to help autistic people converse with their friends and family. This will help autistic individuals express their needs so they can live a more satisfactory life.

Occupational Therapy for Stroke Victims 

There are a few different kinds of strokes. All are serious, and all involve a reduced blood flow to the brain. This leads to serious, sometimes long-term damage. This damage can fundamentally change the way a person thinks and acts.

OTs are interested in restoring a stroke victim’s preferred way of life. Stroke recovery can be a long road. In the worst-case scenarios, full recovery may never be possible. 

Regardless of the severity level, an OT will do everything they can to help stroke victims return to normalcy.

When to Use an OT to Help Stroke Victims

Here are some of the cases in which a stroke victim should seek the help of an OT:

  • Extreme emotional changes
  • Significant cognitive and/or physical impairment
  • Lost ability to drive a car

Family members may not have the skills needed to help a stroke victim. Part of this is due to the potential of cognitive changes as well as physical limitations.

Studies show that a high percentage of stroke victims are older adults. OTs can help to rehabilitate these individuals. They can also look out for warning signs of a future stroke. This not only helps victims live a better life, but it also may help reduce the risk of further stroke damage.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy for Those with Dementia 

Dementia is somewhat of a catch-all term for a list of neurological disorders. These include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Vascular dementia
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Mixed dementia

These forms of dementia are common in older adults. They can lead to confusion and other kinds of cognitive decline. But how can you tell if a case of dementia is serious enough to warrant the use of OT?

When to Use an OT to Help Those with Dementia

To get a sense of if a person with dementia needs an OT, ask the following question: Is the person with dementia a risk to themselves when left to function on their own? 

If the answer to that question is yes, it is critical to find help. An OT is one of the professionals you can look to for assistance.

An OT will help a person with dementia remember important dates, events, their daily routine and family members. They can also make sure that the person with dementia stays as safe as possible in their own home. This can be extremely important in preventing avoidable future complications.

How to Find An OT

If you are convinced you or a loved one needs an OT, it is time to start looking for one. Luckily this is relatively easy to do. The first point of contact should be your general practitioner (GP) or your local authority. 

If you are searching for a private OT, the Royal College of Occupational Therapists has an online directorywhere you can find an OT near you. All OTs in that directory are well-qualified members of the Royal College of  Occupational Therapists.

Preparation will help facilitate the process of finding the right OT for you. Before contacting an OT, be ready to describe your situation. Tell them about your health conditions as well as any daily tasks that have become difficult. This will ensure that finding the help you need runs as smoothly as possible.

Alternatively, you can contact HT Neuro Rehab here to discuss your case. 

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Occupational therapists have many varied skills. They use these skills to change the lives of their clients positively. 

Knowing if you need an OT can be hard. But the guidance in this article should give you a good starting point as you make your decision. Finding an OT might prove to be the best option for bringing balance and enjoyment back to your life.

Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this Blog article are not intended to amount to advice, and you should not rely on any of the contents of this Blog article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this Blog article. OccupationaltherapyBlog disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this Blog article. 



I'm a Neurological Occupational Therapist and Founder of HT Neuro Rehab an Holistic & Person-Centred Adult Rehabilitation in London. I"m fully registered with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT). I have founded HT Neuro Rehab to provide clinical Occupational Therapy services to adults with neurological conditions, brain injuries, major trauma, upper limb retraining and rehabilitation, Prolonged Disorders of Consciousness (PDoC) and Functional Neurological Disorders (FND). My practice provides support, training, and guidance to both the patient and their families and caregivers. My goal is to enable each patient to achieve their personal ability, mobility, and independence goals while cultivating a long-term support network that is capable and prepared to engage in the rehabilitation journey.

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