About Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is a client-centred health profession concerned with promoting health and wellbeing 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 working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement (WFOT, 2012).

More information about how occupational therapy is described around the world is available from the WFOT resource Definitions of Occupational Therapy from Member Organisations.

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.

Occupational therapists are autonomous health professionals that work with individuals, groups and communities in a variety of settings to promote participation in occupations that give value and meaning to life. Occupational therapists are educated, self-directed and use evidence and judgement to complete assessments, plan and implement occupational therapy interventions and evaluate outcomes of service. To work as an occupational therapist, individuals must complete an education programme in occupational therapy, and in most countries, meet regulatory standards for entry-to-practice and continuing competency.

Occupational therapy assistants, technicians or support workers provide occupational therapy under the guidance and supervision of an occupational therapist. Assistants help with implementing occupational therapy interventions, for example, practicing the use of assistive technology, completing administrative tasks or assisting with activities. In some countries, assistants may be graduates of a specialised education programme for occupational therapy assistants and required to attain a qualification or certification to work in occupational therapy.

People of all age groups and abilities benefit from occupational therapy. Places where occupational therapy is provided may include hospitals, clinics, day and rehabilitation centres, home care programmes, special schools, industry and private enterprise. Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants may also work in private practice and as educators and consultants.


Occupational therapists can provide direct access to occupational therapy services without a referral from another health professional. Occupational therapists also accept referrals from a broad range of individuals, professionals and organisations. Occupational therapists have the right for self-determination regarding the populations and settings they serve, including those marginalised by economic, political or social factors.


The occupational therapy process is based on initial and repeated assessments. The occupational therapist works together with the individual, group or community receiving occupational therapy to focus on personal capacity and environmental factors that may impact performance of important daily activities.

Assessment includes the use of standardised procedures, interviews, observations in a variety of settings, as well as consultation with significant others.


The results of an occupational therapy assessment form the basis of a plan which address short and long-term aims of intervention. The plan is relevant to the developmental stage, habits, roles, life-style preferences and environment of the person, group or community receiving occupational therapy.


Intervention focuses on person-oriented programmes designed to facilitate the performance of everyday tasks and adaptation of settings in which the person, group or population receiving occupational therapy works, lives and socialises. Examples include teaching new techniques and providing equipment to facilitate independence in personal care; and reducing environmental barriers by providing resources to lessen stress.


Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants recognise the importance of teamwork. Cooperation and coordination with other professionals, families, caregivers and volunteers are important in the realisation of the holistic approach used in occupational therapy.

Occupational therapists serve in the best interests of the public, guided by a defined set of competencies, ethics and principles.

Guiding Principles for Competency in Occupational Therapy

Guiding Principles for the Use of Evidence in Occupational Therapy

WFOT Code of Ethics