What is Occupational Therapy?


Occupational therapy helps to solve the problems that interfere with your ability to do the things that are important to you. It can also prevent a problem or minimize its effects.

When an injury, illness, disability or other problem limits your ability to:

  • Take care of yourself,
  • Participate in paid or unpaid work, or
  • Enjoy your leisure time, e.g. hobbies, sports, spending time with family,

then you may want to learn some new skills for the job of living from an occupational therapist.

Occupational therapists believe that occupations (activities) describe who you are and how you feel about yourself. If you are unable to do the things you want, or need to do, to live and enjoy your life, your general well-being may be affected.

Review CAOT Code of Ethics and CAOT History.

Occupational Therapists' Qualifications

Occupational therapists are university-trained, regulated health professionals whose unique training enables them to understand not only the medical and physical limitations of a disability or injury, but also the psycho-social factors that affect an individual's ability to function independently. Their approach is based on research that proves that an individual's ability to engage in occupation increases health and well-being.


  • Graduated from an accredited university program with a Master's degree in occupational therapy.
  • Successfully completed a minimum of 1000 hours of fieldwork education.
  • Successfully passed the certification examination administered by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists or met provincial registration qualifications.
  • Maintained their competency to practise based on their provincial regulatory requirements. Occupational therapists must be registered with their provincial regulatory organization in order to legally practise occupational therapy in Canada.

Occupational therapists are experts, recognized by government and consumers for evaluating and promoting performance in daily occupations. For example :

  • The Canada Revenue Agency recognizes occupational therapy as a tax-deductible medical expense.
  • The Canada Revenue Agency allows occupational therapists to authorize disability tax credits, and income tax for services provided to someone with a physical disability by a nonregulated health provider.
  • Occupational therapists are authorized to prescribe assistive devices such as wheelchairs, mobility devices and communication aids in provinces with provincial assistive device funding programs.
  • Many consumer organizations require an occupational therapist's authorization for co-funding assistive device purchases.
  • Provincial governments recognize occupational therapists' credentials for assessing mental health competency.
  • Provincial governments recognize occupational therapy driving evaluations for assessing an individual's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Occupational therapy Values and Beliefs

About occupation, we believe that:

  • Occupation gives meaning to life;
  • Occupation is an important determinant of health, well-being, and justice;
  • Occupation organizes behaviour;
  • Occupation develops and changes over a lifetime;
  • Occupation shapes and is shaped by environments;
  • Occupation has therapeutic potential.

About the person, we believe that:

  • Humans are occupational beings;
  • Every person is unique;
  • Every person has intrinsic dignity and worth;
  • Every person has the right to make choices about life;
  • Every person has the right to self-determination;
  • People have some ability to participate in occupations;
  • People have some potential to change;
  • People are social and spiritual beings;
  • People have diverse abilities for participating in occupations;
  • People shape and are shaped by their environments.

About the environment, we believe that:

  • The environment includes cultural, institutional, physical, and social components;
  • The environment influences choice, organization, performance, and satisfaction in occupations.

About health, well-being, and justice, we believe that:

  • Health is more than the absence of disease;
  • Health is strongly influenced by having choice and control in everyday occupations;
  • Health has personal dimensions associated with spiritual meaning and satisfaction in occupations, and it has social dimensions associated with fairness and
  • equitable opportunity in occupations;
  • Well-being extends beyond health to quality of life;
  • Justice concerns are for meaningful choice and social inclusion, so that all people may participate as fully as possible in society.

About client-centred practice, we believe that:

  • Clients are experts regarding their own occupations;
  • Clients must be active partners in the occupational therapy process.

(Enabling Occupation II, CAOT 2007, p. 3-4, adapted from Enabling Occupation, CAOT, 1997, 2002, p. 31)

Copyright 2016 Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
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