Have you ever wondered what ‘occupation’ means? I thought I would take the time to share and explain occupations and how keeping these at the forefront of our minds guides our assessments, therapy and underpins our clinical practice as Occupational Therapists.
Occupations in Occupational Therapy are defined as daily activities that are goal directed. They occupy our time and are what individuals do to bring meaning to their life. Other terms for them are activities, tasks, hobbies, or things we need to do. Occupations cover the things a person needs to do, wants to do, and are expected to do and that meet their basic human needs, find structure, and purpose to their day and bring enjoyment. So basically, it is everything that you do each day, week, month, year. We (as OT’s) consider someone’s functional ability against whether they can independently and safely participate in these occupations.
Occupational Therapists are particularly interested in the activities people choose to do and that give them satisfaction and meaning. These activities help them feel purposeful and contributes overall to positive health and wellbeing. For this reason, in our assessments and therapy intervention, we are interested in whether individuals can do these occupations and if not, then provide intervention to enable this. Our approach depends on what is needed but may include skill development, rehabilitation, restoration, or compensation. If someone is unable to engage in meaningful and purposeful occupations, it is considered they are experiencing Occupational Imbalance and Occupational Deprivation. They lose purpose and meaning to their day because they aren’t doing things that fulfil their lives, both significantly impact a person’s wellbeing.
As mentioned above, Occupational Therapist’s provide Occupational Based Intervention. We use functional tasks and ‘doing’ to assess and develop skills, build capacity and work towards regaining independence to be able to achieve desired activities and finding meaning in their lives.
So, to wrap it up, OTs are focused on occupation in all aspects of practice. We look at what people are doing, what they want to be do doing or must be doing and use assessments to determine where function limits this opportunity. We then move onto therapy to develop functional skills to enable individuals to reach occupational balance and independence in occupations (tasks) that are both necessary and meaningful.
In case this has sparked your interest, here are some other Occupational terms to research if you are interested, Occupational Roles and Occupational Performance. Alternatively, ask your TPAG OT!