The goal of occupational therapy treatment is to enhance a child or adult patient's day-to-day physical and/or psychosocial functioning so he or she may be productive and experience life as fully as possible. In turn, this enhances the patient's self-esteem. Occupational therapy treatment is carried out through functional or psychological therapies that implement physical tasks, and social and occupational exercises centered around the patient's overall rehabilitation. Functional therapies place emphasis on day-to-day tasks, while psychological therapies address behavioral and emotional issues that impede a patient's optimal interpersonal, vocational, and daily living skills.
The patient's physical injury or psychiatric condition must first be assessed so the therapist can create an individualized occupational therapy treatment plan. For a pediatric population, occupational therapy treatment is generally helpful when the child suffers from conditions like delayed fine motor skills development, sensory deficits, autism, or other behavioral or emotional disturbance. The treatment is usually carried out with an emphasis on the development of play and work activities in home and school settings, as well as on self-care. Occupational therapy treatment for adults is generally indicated when the patient has lost some physical or cognitive ability, or when he or she has suffered a psychiatric setback. In the case of adults, the goal is to restore, as much as possible, prior levels of functioning for the patient.
Occupational therapy treatment may be indicated for patients of any age in the case of neurological or neuromuscular conditions, and injuries or conditions affecting the hands or other upper extremities. Some of the most common physical conditions that make a patient a candidate for this kind of functional occupational therapy treatment are repetitive motion injuries like tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Although the initial emphasis of this kind of treatment is on the improvement of the disabling physical condition, the goal is to get the patient to function in his or her day-to-day life as fully as possible, although certain adaptations may be required. The therapist assumes a teaching role to achieve that.
Psychological therapy is indicated when a patient is suffering from behavioral and/or emotional disorders that affect his or her ability to undertake a fulfilling occupational activity. Intervention may be carried out to help the patient improve his or her social interaction and personal hygiene skills. This can enable the patient to find a job, for example, and make a contribution to society. Generally speaking, the goal of this kind of treatment is to raise the patient's level of self-esteem through satisfying and meaningful work as part of his or her recovery.
Two highly structured occupational therapy treatment programs directed towards transitioning patients back into work are work conditioning and work hardening. Work hardening incorporates rehabilitative psychosocial measures, along with physical conditioning tasks in simulated or real work settings. Work conditioning, on the other hand, mainly stresses physical conditioning for adaptive, optimal functioning on the job.