What is Occupational Therapy?

I often hear the following as I speak to people about the work I do:

“So, you work with children and families who struggle with emotional and mental health concerns? But aren’t you an Occupational Therapist?”

At times, it can be incredibly hard to clearly define Occupational Therapy because of the broad areas OT’s can work in. For the purposes of clarity,

Occupational Therapists are health care professionals who work with people to enable them to participate in enduring, meaningful and engaging occupations (student, parent, child, friend). This involves helping clients recognise their strengths and explore their challenges, to function, recover and develop[1].

As a Child and Family Mental Health OT, I work with clients in several ways. I may assess a child’s developmental functioning to understand why they are misbehaving in class; or work with an infant and parent to look at the struggles both may have in connecting; or help a client cope with their emotions, behaviour, or mental health.

Within sessions, my role is to provide clients with a safe space to tell their story. This involves organising a client’s experiences, thinking with them about their intense feelings, giving voice to things left unsaid, and helping them make sense of how they can move forward. As this is happening, I am also sensitively assessing when to offer safe and appropriate strategies.

As I write these blogs, I am hoping that the stories I share (being mindful of confidentiality[2]), helps give Occupational Therapy another voice to share the types of intervention we can offer clients we work with.



[1] Australian Competency for Occupational Therapists in Mental Health – OTA, 1999

[2] Stories will not have real client details/identifying features (current or past), and will be used for educational purposes.


image: © Andreykuzmin | Dreamstime.com

About Catherine

Catherine Daly is an Occupational Therapist and Psychotherapist working with children and families struggling with emotional, behavioural, developmental and mental health difficulties.