Why Become an Occupational Therapist Assistant?

Training and Education Jobs and Salaries

Occupational therapist assistants and aides work under the direction of occupational therapists to provide rehabilitative services to persons with mental, physical, emotional, or developmental impairments. The ultimate goal is to improve clients quality of life and ability to perform daily activities. For example, occupational therapist assistants help injured workers re-enter the labor force by teaching them how to compensate for lost motor skills or help individuals with learning disabilities increase their independence.

Occupational therapist assistants, commonly known as occupational therapy assistants, help clients with rehabilitative activities and exercises outlined in a treatment plan developed in collaboration with an occupational therapist. Activities range from teaching the proper method of moving from a bed into a wheelchair to the best way to stretch and limber the muscles of the hand. Assistants monitor individual activities to make sure that they are performed correctly and to provide encouragement.

They also record their client’s progress for the occupational therapist. If the treatment is not having the intended effect, or the client is not improving as expected, the therapist may alter the treatment program in hopes of obtaining better results. In addition, occupational therapist assistants document the billing of the client health insurance provider. Occupational therapist aides typically prepare materials and assemble equipment used during treatment.

They are responsible for a range of clerical tasks, including scheduling appointments, answering the telephone, restocking or ordering depleted supplies, and filling out insurance forms or other paperwork. Aides are not licensed, so the law does not allow them to perform as wide a range of tasks as occupational therapist assistants. Occupational therapist assistants and aides need to have a moderate degree of strength because of the physical exertion required to assist patients. For example, assistants and aides may need to lift patients.

Constant kneeling, stooping, and standing for long periods also are part of the job. The hours and days that occupational therapist assistants and aides work vary by facility and with whether they are full or part time. For example, many outpatient therapy offices and clinics have evening and weekend hours to coincide with patient schedules.

Occupational therapist assistants and aides hold about 33,000 jobs. Occupational therapist assistants hold about 25,000 jobs, and occupational therapist aides hold approximately 8,000. About 29 percent of jobs for assistants and aides are in hospitals, 23 percent are in offices of occupational therapists, and 21 percent are in nursing and residential care facilities. The rest were primarily in community care facilities for the elderly, home health care services, individual and family services, and State government agencies.