Occupational Therapists Do What Now? 5 Unique Career Paths of Gifted OTs.

Felicia Stephens
April 24, 2018

You can go to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) to see what occupation therapists do, and to find out their typical job descriptions.


Many people may not know about the awesome, distinct, and special roles that occupational therapist (OT) can play in the lives of their patients.  If you think that OT is a basic job with basic skills then you will have your mind changed today.

Check out these 5 areas and specialties that occupational therapist make a big difference in every day.

1. Hand Therapy

Have you ever been asked the very irrational question, “which would you rather lose your feet or your hands”? I don't like these kinds of questions but they make you think about the importance of your limbs. I for one, if given the ultimatum to decide on which I would keep, would keep my hands. Think of all that they do and how much we use them. If they are injured we are lacking in function in a devastating way. This is where these gifted individuals come in.

A hand therapist is a therapist who, through advanced continuing education and clinical experience, has become an expert in treatment of upper extremity (shoulder, arm, forearm, wrist, and hand) conditions resulting from trauma, disease, congenital or acquired problems. They bridge the gap from problem to recovery, giving patients the care they need to function more normally in their daily lives.

For more information on this specialty check out the American Society of Hand Therapists.

2. Lymphedema Management or Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT)

Many of us know someone that has been affected by cancer of some sort. Well, lymphedema is one of the secondary effects of some cancers, surgeries, injuries or infections. Lymphedema is an accumulation of protein-rich fluid in the superficial tissues causing swelling/edema and is a very common and serious condition worldwide.

OTs, through continuing education coursework and experience, can become specialist in treating this condition that can cause severe deformity and loss of function.

For more information on the OT’s role in breast cancer rehab check out this CDT AOTA Fact Sheet.

3. Low Vision Therapy

When we have sight problems, we think of going to the optometrist or ophthalmologist. Not anymore after reading this post. There is another vision professional that is not as well known.

OT practitioners help people with low vision function caused at the highest possible level by preventing accidents and injury, teaching new skills, and modifying the task or environment.

For more information on this specialty check out this vision therapy AOTA Fact Sheet.

4. Driving and Community Mobility

“Driver’s Ed” is only for 15-17-year-olds, right? Not exactly. There are many individuals that have been through “driver’s ed” in their adolescence, and they need to repeat driving therapy with an OT because of a change in their health or physical condition.

This area of expertise focuses on the OT enabling a client to be mobile in his or her community environment, whether that is via driving, public transportation, walking, school bus, etc.

For more information on this specialty check out this article by AOTA Driving and Community Mobility.

5. Sensory Integration Therapy

Have you ever felt “over-stimulated.” Hopefully not by this easy to understand and informative website. Well, some individuals have problems processing even the mildest of stimuli causing them to over-react or even shut down completely. Sensory processing disorders can cause problems with basic activities of daily living and behaviors.

OT services are available for persons of all ages with sensory integration and processing problems. The OTs work closely with the individual and family members to create a plan to promote improved performance and help individuals maximize participation in daily living activities.

For more information on this specialty check out this sensory integration therapy AOTA Fact Sheet.

These creative, skilled, and knowledgeable individuals are not just OTs. These are SUPER OTs. If you wish to stand out from your colleagues and demonstrate your commitment to the OT profession, do some further research in the specialty areas that sparked your interest. Once you get into OT school, you can seek out clinical experience in these areas as well to get your feet wet and see if this may be an area of expertise for you.

Occupational therapy is where science, creativity and compassion collide