If you’ve been told––or suspect––you need an occupational therapy evaluation, the next steps can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. How do you select the right provider? What should you expect during the evaluation, and what questions should you ask?
This article serves as a brief guide to help set you on the right path. But before we get started, it’s important to understand exactly what occupational therapy is, components of an occupational therapy evaluation, and potential benefits for several types of patients.
What Is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapists help patients who have suffered a debilitating illness or injury to successfully engage in the activities of daily life that they need to do and want to do. Occupational therapists work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, mental health facilities, schools, and nursing homes to help patients overcome impairments and limitations that keep them from living independently and performing everyday tasks.
The activities of daily living are a key focus for occupational therapists. For patients who may have pain or physical impairments, occupational therapists can teach them skills and strategies to perform activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, walking, cooking, socializing, taking care of a home, or taking care of others.
Occupational therapists also can address mental health challenges that make it difficult for the patient to resume a normal life. Common focus areas are depression, anxiety, memory problems, and social isolation. The occupational therapist will often help with stress management, goal setting, and coping skills to improve the patient’s functioning.
In addition, occupational therapists will assess the patient’s environment – whether it’s home, school, or work – to see if there are modifications that can be made to pave the way for the patient’s recovery. The occupational therapist can also teach compensatory strategies to help the patient overcome barriers in the environment.
Whether it’s a re-entry into the workplace, school, or the community, occupational therapists also work with stakeholders to make the adjustment easier. From communicating with employers about the patient’s situation to making modifications to a learning environment, occupational therapists are trained to understand how to accommodate a disability or injury in a way that makes it possible for the patient to return to work, school, or the community safely and successfully.
Occupational Therapy Evaluation
Treatment typically begins with an occupational therapy evaluation.The evaluation usually takes anywhere between 20 minutes to several hours to complete. During this time, the occupational therapist will ask for your medical record and ask questions to better understand your medical condition, including collecting information on your age, medical history, diagnosis, and day-to-day life before the health change that prompted the need for occupational therapy.
Next the occupational therapist will use a few tests to assess your overall level of functioning. These might include examining your pain level and type, vital signs, mental status, skin health, range of motion, muscle strength, tone, coordination, and overall sense of movement, action, and location.
With insights gained from the occupational therapy evaluation, the therapist will then identify specific skills to work on that will aid functioning, create a plan to improve these skills, and share their insights and goals in a report with the patient’s insurer and others on the healthcare team.
6 Considerations When Selecting an Occupational Therapy Provider
Now that you have a better understanding of what an occupational therapy provider does and how the therapist will evaluate you as a patient, you might be wondering how to find and vet a potential occupational therapy provider. It’s important to find the right provider who can give you the individualized treatment that’s most effective for your condition. The following questions can be helpful when selecting an occupational therapist.
1. What is their educational training and professional experience in relation to your specific condition?
You should ask about training and experience before selecting a provider. Find out what specific experiences they have had with the specific condition that they will be addressing and evaluate whether they can speak with expertise about the condition and how to treat it.
2. What are their certifications?
Occupational therapists should maintain their certified status with the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy by investing in professional development with the NBCOT and abiding by its rules, the therapist stays up to date on the latest medical evidence and commits high ethical standards. Certification signifies that the occupational therapist is qualified to perform services.
3. How will they treat the patient?
Ask the provider to describe the potential treatment plan to confirm whether their approach is creative, comprehensive, and specific to the condition.
4. Who are their references and what do they say about the provider?
Try to get a better picture of your provider, their experience, their credibility, and whether they are a good fit by searching out reviews or, even better, speaking with past clients. If given the opportunity, ask questions that will delve deeper into the reference’s experience with the provider and how effective the treatment was.
5. Are they part of an integrated care provider?
Occupational therapy is often part of an interdisciplinary care program that may include other healthcare professionals, such as a case manager, nurse, doctor, physical therapist, and speech language pathologist. You’ll want to consider whether your occupational therapist is part of an integrated care team that can offer short- and long-term care, multiple services, and an interdisciplinary care plan to treat the whole patient.
6. Are occupational therapist’s activities purposeful?
This is perhaps a question that you will consider once care begins. The program of activities that the occupational therapist plans should be customized to be meaningful and encouraging for the patient. It should address the things they need and want to accomplishment. If the activities planned are not purposeful, you may want to refocus with the provider.
Are you ready to speak with an occupational therapist about starting a plan of treatment? Rehab Select is home to a team of occupational therapists who can provide individualized, one-on-one treatment for a variety of conditions. They can also work with an interdisciplinary care team to provide a holistic care plan that fits you or your loved ones’ specific condition. Learn how Rehab Select can help with occupational needs for short-term and long-term rehabilitation at http://www.rehabselect.net.