Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is a treatment that helps people overcome physical, emotional and social challenges. Your therapist will design customized interventions to help you meet your goals and safely participate in your daily routine.


Occupational therapy can help you find ways to accomplish your movement and activity goals
Occupational therapy can help you manage any injury, condition or disability that makes your daily routine harder.

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy (OT) is treatment that helps you improve your ability to perform daily tasks. It can help you learn how to move through your environment or use different tools to participate in your activities safely.

You might need OT after trauma or an injury. Some people do occupational therapy to manage symptoms from a chronic (long-term) condition or disability.

Occupational therapy helps people live as self-sufficiently as possible. The occupation in occupational therapy doesn’t necessarily mean your ability to work or do your job — although some people do use occupational therapy to help them get back to work after an injury. Occupation is a general term providers use to mean any of the daily tasks you do.

You’ll work with an occupational therapist — a healthcare provider who’ll make sure you’re safe and supported during your therapy sessions.

What does occupational therapy treat?

Occupational therapy can help you with any injury, condition or disability that makes it harder to go through your daily routine. Children might need pediatric occupational therapy, OT that’s specifically designed for younger patients.

You might need OT while you’re recovering from an injury or trauma, including:

People with some chronic conditions need occupational therapy:

You might need OT if you have some types of disabilities, including:

Some people need occupational therapy after surgeries, including:


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Which activities are done during occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy usually has three stages:

  • Assessment.
  • Interventions.
  • Evaluations and outcomes.


Usually, the first time you meet with an occupational therapist, they’ll conduct what’s known as an assessment. They’ll get to know you and your loved ones, talk about your goals and discuss any barriers to success you’re currently experiencing.

Your therapist might also examine your home, workplace or any other environment you visit frequently. This will help them know exactly where you’ll need support and how they can help you meet your goals.


Interventions are tools, resources or other changes in your environment or routine that help you complete tasks better. One type of common intervention is learning to use a new piece of assistive equipment — like a prosthetic (artificial replacement) limb or a wheelchair. Your occupational therapist will make sure you can use this new equipment safely and confidently in all your environments and during all your daily activities.

Sometimes, interventions are exercises that increase your physical strength and coordination. This can be related to healing after a specific injury or overall fatigue. You might work with a mental health professional on any emotional or mental health issues you’re experiencing.

Everyone’s needs are unique, and your therapist will develop interventions customized to your physical, mental and social goals.

Occupational therapy will help you improve your ability to perform tasks (occupations) to live as self-sufficiently as possible. OT can help you learn to safely:

  • Get dressed.
  • Take your medication.
  • Shop for groceries.
  • Drive.
  • Use a computer or other technology.

This isn’t a complete list of the activities people do during occupational therapy, just some examples. Tell your therapist what your goals are, and they’ll work with you to meet those needs.

Evaluations and outcomes

Evaluations and outcomes is the ongoing phase you’ll be in after you adjust to your interventions. Your therapist will monitor your progress and your mental and emotional health as you get used to your interventions. They’ll adjust any interventions that aren’t working as well you’d like.

Risks / Benefits

What are the benefits of occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy can help you find ways to accomplish your movement and activity goals while making sure you have all the resources you need.

It can be part of a treatment plan that improves your overall physical and mental health. Your therapist will connect you to any emotional or social resources you need to feel safe and supported during your day-to-day routine.


What are the risks of occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy is very safe and effective. It has the same small injury risk as any physical activity. Talk to your therapist about how to participate in your daily routine safely — especially if you’re trying new or more challenging activities at home or without supervision between appointments.

Recovery and Outlook

Is occupational therapy worth it?

Occupational therapy is absolutely worth it. It can be hard (especially at first) to try something new or to push your body and mind outside your comfort zone. You might feel stressed, tired or exhausted after occupational therapy. These feelings are valid and normal. Your therapist will help you set realistic goals and expectations. Tell them if something feels dangerous, scary or painful.


When To Call the Doctor

When should I see my healthcare provider?

Visit a healthcare provider if you notice new, worsening or different symptoms. Talk to your therapist if it feels like any part of your daily routine is more challenging than usual, or if anything makes you physically or emotionally uncomfortable. They can adjust your OT interventions as your needs change.

Additional Common Questions

What is the difference between occupational therapy (OT) vs. physical therapy (PT)?

Occupational therapy and physical therapy both help you move your body better or more safely. The difference between them is their end goal.

Occupational therapy is all about helping people improve their ability to do daily tasks and live as independently as possible. It’s focused on helping you accomplish all your routine tasks and do your favorite activities safely.

People usually need physical therapy to improve their physical mobility or manage specific symptoms of a health condition like pain and stiffness. A physical therapist will give you exercises or stretches to increase your strength and flexibility.

Occupational and physical therapy sometimes overlap, and you might need both at the same time. They might share goals but have different approaches to improving your health and safety.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Occupational therapy is an ongoing process. It’ll take time and adjustments to find the right interventions and therapies that help you accomplish your goals. Be honest with your therapist about your goals — tell them which activities you want to do. They’ll do their best to find ways to help you reach your goals while feeling stronger and safer throughout your day.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 02/27/2024.

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