Calling occupational therapists – What’s OT?

OT , BT3.


How would you feel if I told you you would be doing all of these next week? Would you feel anxious?, wonder what you should wear?, whether you should eat before you did them?

Well I guess there is about 100 people in the world who will understand all that I have just written, and at least 260,000 who will understand the first OT. From memory that is, the number of occupational therapists in the world, according to the World Federation of Occupational Therapists recent stock take on occupational therapy.  Given that we ponder/discuss and constantly work on how to get our profession better recognised by others why do we persist in saying and writing OT?

I remember as a student, another student telling the story of an elderly client who had wanted something and had been told to talk to the OT. She was heard asking around the ward for the Old Tea Lady (true!!!!)

Today I got a call from my extended family, as per my last post I currently have a family member in hospital and he has now moved to rehabilitation, and fantastically they have put a list on the wall of his rehabilitation team. Today the question from the family was what does SW stand for, what about SLT and PT and is OT occupational therapy ? I know that one day they will know what all of these stand for but wouldn’t it be nice if they knew from the word go. For those that don’t know SW is social worker, SLT is speech language therapist, PT is physiotherapist and yes OT is occupational therapy.

We have a beautiful name, that describes our core beleif why don’t we use it? I know we have to explain occupation to others but we are half way there if people start with knowing the name of our profession. So lets stop the jargon and abbreviations as one of the most proactive steps we can take to having people know and understand our profession.


8 responses to “Calling occupational therapists – What’s OT?

  1. Excellent idea! You’ll see in my blog that I rarely (if ever) call occupational therapy ‘OT’. In an acute hospital it means ‘operating theatre’, and in other settings it means ‘Over time’…to my daughter (15) it means ‘Over the top’…
    So, let’s call it by the full name: occupational therapy.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree. Not only do we have a beautiful name for our profession, but a descriptive one that should be used at every opportunity. Is it our laziness that stops us from saying it in full, or do we assume that people know what we’re referring to, when most of the time they probably don’t. Let’s stop complaining that nobody knows what we do etc, and use the words to describe it – occupational therapy!

  3. Belle ot crossing

    If anyone is struggling with finding direction once they’ve qualified from training a great wat to find occupational therapy jobs, or a occupational therapy assistant job then you really are reading the right article. The best way i got a job was by going on occupational therapy crossing into a search engine, the website was great and it was a brilliant source as it not only showed jobs from the employed website but every other job board out there.
    I found other sites never had half as many as that one so please on my behalf have a look you wont regret it! Job occupational therapy and certified occupational therapy assistant jobs were so easy to find too. love belle xxx

    • occupationaltherapyotago

      My apology I have ben a bit remiss with tending to my blog recently. Yes it is a great part of the world the best place to check out jobs is to go to the seeknz online site – has most of the occupational therpay jobs in NZ advertised. Also the New Zealand Association of Occupational Therapy has jobs advertised on its website. It is essential howeve to gain registration to work in New Zealdn to find out how to do this visit the New Zealand Occupational therpay Board site. i hope this helps.

  4. The abbreviation, OT, is no doubt confusing but to me as a lay person, the word occupational in occupational therapist itself is confusing. I would think the job of an occupational therapist is to restore someone back their job or profession when this is not the case.

  5. occupationaltherapyotago

    Hi Sama
    The work occupation is an interesting one – as a profession we use it very broadly. To us occupation refers to the everyday activities and tasks we engage in. You are right at times it is used in relation to ones paid employment, but also to associated with cooking a meal, cleaning the house ,brushing your teeth , going to a dance all of those things that keep us ‘occupied’, engaged and participating in life.

  6. When people become ill, disabled or lack opportunities, they may lose the ability to carry out everyday activities, which most people take for granted.

    As an occupational therapy degree holder and practitioner you will assess the physical, mental and social needs of the individual, and work with them to identify the best way to help them achieve their personal goals and independence.

    Activity is seen as essential to health and achieved through the use of activities that are meaningful to the individual; skills are regained and participation in everyday life is enhanced.

    Occupational therapy degree graduates can make valuable differences to people’s lives and are part of a challenging and dynamic profession.

    With an increasing need for occupational therapy degree holders due to an ageing population and developments in health and social care, career prospects within the profession are widespread and varied.

    In order to learn more about the BSc occupational therapy course course at the University of Southampton please visit the Health Sciences homepage at

  7. occupationaltherapyotago

    Hi folks
    Always interesting when someone wants to advertise on your site. I did think hard about approving this as I also work in an occupational therapy school :)….But decided it was unlikely that we would be in competition at an undergraduate level. However, then I thought perhaps we might be! after all choosing to be educated as an occupational therapist in NZ might be cheaper than in your own country.

    We also have an active distance based Postgraduate Programme we have students joining in from throughout the world, Australia, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Kazakhstan and the US to name a few. So if you are interested in gaining an educational qualification in occupational therapy in New Zealand have a look at Otago Polytechnics Programme http://www.OtagoPolytechnic

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