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What is Occupational Therapy?
An Occupational Therapist is a university-trained health professional. Their role is to maximise a client’s independence, safety and quality of life by minimising the impact of the client’s impairments and building on their strengths and skills. This is done by assessing and addressing the barriers raised by disease, injury, development and ageing. OTs often use education and rehabilitation to develop a person’s performance in everyday activities. This is what we refer to as ‘occupation’.

Occupational Therapy is a health profession concerned with promoting the health and well-being of individuals through occupation. The term occupation refers to activities of everyday life including work, play/leisure and self-care. The primary goal of Occupational Therapy is to enable individuals to participate in occupation by enhancing their abilities or modifying the environment to better support participation. Occupational Therapists believe that participation can be supported or restricted by social, physical and legislative factors. Therefore, Occupational Therapy practice is often directed to changing aspects of the environment to enhance participation in occupation for either individuals or groups of people.

Clients of Occupational Therapists are actively involved in the therapeutic process. Therefore the outcomes of Occupational Therapy are diverse, client-driven and measured by participation and or client satisfaction with participation in activities of everyday life.

Below is a compliation of definitions and descriptions that capture the essence of Occupational Therapy.

“Occupational Therapy is a profession concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation. The primary goal of Occupational Therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational Therapists achieve this outcome by enabling people to do things that will enhance their ability to participate or by modifying the environment to better support participation. Occupational Therapists have a broad education that equips them with the skills and knowledge to work collaboratively with individuals or groups of people who have an impairment of body structure or function due to a health condition, and those who experience barriers to participation. Occupational Therapists believe that participation can be supported or restricted by physical, social, attitudinal or legislative environments. Therefore, Occupational Therapy practice may be directed to changing aspects of the environment to enhance participation. Occupational Therapy is practiced in a wide range of settings (… and) clients are actively involved in the therapeutic process, and outcomes of Occupational Therapy are diverse, client-driven and measured in terms of participation or satisfaction derived from participation.” (WFOT, 2004).

Occupational Therapy is the “therapeutic use of self-care, work and play (leisure) activities to increase independent function, enhance development and prevent disability. May include adaptation of task or environment to achieve maximum independence and quality of life.” (Hopkins & Smith, 1993).

“Occupational Therapy is an allied health profession associated with assisting individuals of all ages to achieve their chosen occupational roles in the community in the areas of self-care, mobility, work and leisure. To overcome deficits related to physical, intellectual and psychosocial function.” (Curtin University of Technology, School of Occupational Therapy, Staff Member, 2000).

Occupational Therapy involves “improving the lives of those who may otherwise have barriers to leading a fulfilling lifestyle.” (2nd Year Occupational Therapy Student, 2000).

What do Occupational Therapists do?
Occupational Therapists are trained with multitude of skills to assist many different client groups achieve their functional and occupational goals.

  • Maximise independence with activities of daily living, eg. dressing, feeding, hygiene
  • Prescribe equipment to aid independence
  • Home and vehicle modifications
  • Occupational Health & Safety
  • Return to work programmes
  • Advocacy
  • Hand Therapy & Splinting
  • Soft tissue therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Emotional support & Counselling
  • Community Living Skills
  • Stress, Fatigue and Pain Management
  • Thinking, visual and movement skills
  • Development of play skills
  • Wheelchair and seating prescription
Who do Occupational Therapists work with?
Occupational Therapists work with clients of all ages, including:

  • Children – for school readiness, developmental delay, disabilities and serious illnesses/injuries
  • People with physical disabilities – amputations, cerebral palsy, palliative care
  • People with intellectual disabilities – autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy
  • People with mental health issues – depression, anxiety, schizophrenia
  • People with musculoskeletal injury – sprains, injuries to tendons or bones, burns, back pain
  • Older adults – dementia, difficulties managing at home, ageing
  • People with neurological conditions – stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury
  • And many more people
Where do Occupational Therapists work in Western Australia?
Occupational Therapists work with all age groups and in a wide range of physical and psychosocial settings. Occupational Therapists can be found working in a variety of different locations and situations, including:

  • Public & Private Hospitals
  • Mental Health Wards, Centres, Clinics and Hostels
  • Private Practice
  • Retirement & Nursing Homes
  • Schools
  • Industry
  • Government Departments
  • Vocational Rehabilition Centres
  • Medical Rehabilitation Centres
  • Community Health Centres
  • Home Care Services
  • Tertiary Education Centres
  • Independent Living Centres
  • Associations (eg. Association for the Blind, Arthritis Foundation)
How Do I Find an Occupational Therapist?
You can use the application on our website to find an occupational therapist in a certain speciality or area.
How can I become an Occupational Therapist in WA?

Becoming an Occupational Therapist includes the completion of a university degree, which includes a combination of coursework and fieldwork. Fieldwork placements are where students attend “on the job” training in various clinical settings to gain practical experience prior to graduation.

To become an Occupational Therapist in WA, you will need to:

  • Complete a 4 year full-time Bachelor of Science (Occupational Therapy) degree at either Curtin University or Edith Cowan University
  • Complete a 2.5 year full-time Master of Occupational Therapy at Curtin University. To enroll in the Master of OT, an appropriate undergraduate degree must have been successfully completed./li>
  • Register with the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia as a qualified Occupational Therapist, prior to being able to practise.

Links to University Courses:

Curtin University

Edith Cowan University

Can I do work experience with an Occupational Therapist in a hospital?
There are no formal work experience programmes in place in Western Australia. If you are interested in finding out more about Occupational Therapy as a career, you can try contacting an Occupational Therapist directly about work experience.

Fremantle Hospital and Health Service run tours for people interested in becoming Occupational Therapists in lieu of work experience placements. For more information, please contact the FHHS Occupational Therapy Department on 9431 3333.

How can I become an Occupational Therapy Assistant?
Many healthcare facilities require some form of qualification to work as an Occupational Therapy Assistant or Allied Health Assistant. There are several Certificate III and Certificate IV Courses available through TAFE institutions and other Colleges, which vary in length and content.
Why should I join the WA Occupational Therapy Association (WAOTA)?
There are many benefits to becoming a WAOTA members from discounts to access to journals and research. For more information visit our “Membership Benefits” page
How can I become more involved in my Association?

The WAOTA is always a hive of activity, with many opportunities for volunteers to contribute! We are always happy to welcome new volunteers to assist WAOTA with a range of activities, with a variety of time commitments to suit everyone.

  • Nominate for a position on The Board (Office Holders, Ordinary Member or Advisor) and/ or Management Committee – email your interest to info@waota.com.au

The Management Committee meets once per month for three hours to plan events, discuss issues affecting OTs, write submissions and create plans for future actions and activities. Each Committee member has a portfolio, or area of responsibility and has the opportunity to make real change in the OT world.

  • Join a subcommittee or working party[

We are always looking for volunteers for our teams in Marketing, Research & Development and the Newsletter committee. Whether you’re looking for a longer term commitment as part of a committee or would like to help out with specific events, like the OT Week Breakfast, there is always a role to suit anyone who would like to help out!

There are many different Special Interest Groups affiliated with WAOTA, Contact the convenor of the group that interests you and offer to fill a position (secretary, treasurer etc), present a topic or workshop, or attend the meetings and meet new colleagues who work in your field.

How can I find out information about registering to work as an Occupational Therapy in Australia?
To work as an Occupational Therapist in Australia, it is mandatory to be registered with the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia, which is part of the Australia Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

For information regarding registration, practice audits, professional development requirements and much more, please visit the website: www.occupationaltherapyboard.gov.au