What Is the Role of an Occupational Therapy Assistant?

The health care field continues to grow, and there will be increasing need for occupational therapy assistants in the coming decade. In order to get a job, you will need at least a two-year associate's degree. During year one, you will acquire general information about the health care field, anatomy and physiology, and medical terms. Your courses in the second year of school will be closely related to your intended position in occupational therapy. You will also need to complete 16 weeks of supervised work in the field at a clinic or community facility.

Therapy Goals

Occupational therapy assistants are the right-hand man/woman to the occupational therapist, who is responsible for setting direction and making sure that patients' needs are met. Occupational Therapy Assistants meet regularly with patients to review the goals set by the occupational therapist and determine the best way of attaining them. TheaAssistants may support patients with a number of different activities regarding their daily functions, such as relearning how to feed and dress themselves or attain greater independence.


In many cases, the occupational assistant needs to help people who have been injured on the job find ways to build more strength and endurance before returning to work. They also help these patients with ergonomics, so they can learn less harmful ways of doing their activities, reduce on-the-job stress and prevent future injuries. Those employees who have lost or reduced motor skills will need to learn ways of compensating for their loss.


Some occupational therapy assistants work under the direction of a doctor and see patients in their own house. With the emphasis on keeping the elderly and disabled in their home environment as long as possible, the occupational therapy assistant comes to the patient instead of the patient having to go to the rehabilitation facility or stay in a nursing home.

Management and Administrative Support

Although it is the responsibility of the occupational therapist to do final evaluations and fulfil the administrative functions, the occupational therapy assistant will sometimes be lending her support with these responsibilities. Further, in today's demanding health care system, it is necessary to understand legal and regulatory issues and ethical considerations to make sound clinical decisions.


Communication is an essential part of all aspects of the occupational therapy assistant's job. He needs to be able to interact well with other staff members, patients of all ages and backgrounds, families and the occupational therapist. Strong interpersonal skills are key to being a success in this field, just as are nursing skills and education. Writing skills are also necessary, since the assistant will be keeping track and completing records on a patient's progress toward goals.

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About the Author

Sharon L. Cohen has 30-years' experience as a writer and editor. Her Atlantic Publishing book about starting a Yahoo! business is being followed by one on Amazon.com and another about starting 199 online businesses ( See http://online-business-guide.com). Clients love her excellent high-quality work. She has a B.A. from University of Wisconsin, Madison and an M.A. from Fairfield University Graduate School of Corporate and Political Communiation.

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