What is an occupational therapist?

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Occupational therapists work with people of all ages, from babies and children to adults with injuries, dementia, and developmental delays.

These qualified therapists support the development of the fundamental skills required to complete daily activities and offer clients alternative, more accessible methods of completing day-to-day activities like caring for themselves, caring for others, working, volunteering, and participating in their hobbies, interests, and social events.

Want to know more about occupational therapists?

 What do occupational therapists do?

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An occupational therapist can support people to engage in meaningful activities through the development of fine motor skills, improving independence with self-care skills and supporting access to the community.

An occupational therapist can evaluate and assess skills or activities that you may find difficult, then help implement strategies to support participation in these activities and/or develop the skills required to complete these tasks independently. This may include developing fine motor skills to enable you to dress independently or complete handwriting tasks, prescribe equipment to support mobility in the community or practice skills required to complete tasks such as catching transport or going to the shops.

What does “occupation” mean for occupational therapists?

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The World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) described the “occupations” of occupational therapy perfectly:

“In occupational therapy, occupations refer to the everyday activities that people do as individuals, in families, and with communities to occupy time and bring meaning and purpose to life. Occupations include things people need to, want to, and are expected to do.”

We all experience occupations differently based on personal preferences, our ideas of “fun” and “work”, our upbringings, abilities, location, age, and culture.

Our unique perspective of occupation comes down to three broad elements:

  • Subjective experience: some people like hitting the gym, while others think it’s a major chore. Some might have alternative methods of exercising due to disabilities. How we experience certain occupations comes down to our personal preferences, interests, and experiences
  • Timing: we might have loved begging our parents for lollies at the shops as kids, but as an adult, you might look forward to shopping for groceries, or dread shopping altogether. Our ideas about certain places and occupations can change over time, making us like – or dislike – doing certain things
  • Culture: a Buddhist might think shopping sprees are meaningless, while nihilists might think, well, everything is meaningless. Our cultures and religions can affect how much value we put into certain occupations

Occupational therapists address the social, psychological, and environmental factors which can affect how you respond to certain occupations, plus help balance work, leisure, and self-care time so patients can function effectively in everyday life.

Your therapist also identifies occupations that could lead to injuries or difficulties and show you a better way to perform these tasks.

Who can benefit from occupational therapy? 

Occupational therapists can help people of all ages and work in a range of settings to improve life skills.

They quite often work with children with certain conditions, disabilities, and impairments which affect their ability to do everyday activities, like get dressed, go to school and make friends.

However, occupational therapists work with more than just children:

  • Occupational therapists work in inpatient hospital settings, providing specialist help for people with health conditions including post-surgery, falls, HIV, burns, and mental health to assure safe, successful discharge
  • Some therapists work in mental health specifically and run individual or group programs to enhance participation in looking after oneself, working, and engaging in social situations
  • Occupational therapists can also assist in rehabilitation from injuries like spinal injuries, strokes, multiple sclerosis, hip replacements, and arthritis, offering home modifications for access and helping carers
  • In aged care, they can help older people with vision and hearing problems, balance or coordination issues, or overall confusion related to dementia. Occupational therapists help achieve a safer, more accessible living situation

How do I get access to an occupational therapist?

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We have a range of therapy support options here at Samaritans, including occupational therapy.

Our qualified therapists assess your mobility and sensory needs and work with people from all stages of life to support the development of motor skills, communication like sharing and turn-taking, as well as sensory enhancement from taste to touch and smell.

Samaritans therapists will work with you to reach your needs, hopes, and dreams. We can even partner with your family, school, or workplace to achieve these goals – so we can support you in all aspects of life!

If you’d like to get in touch with an occupational therapist through Samaritans, please call us today on 1300 656 336, or get in touch with our support team at supportadvisor@samaritans.org.au. We’d love to help!


Contact us today for occupational therapist assistance in Newcastle, the Hunter & Central Coast. We’re always here to help!