Occupational Therapy

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After an injury, surgery, or illness, some people have more difficulty with daily activities, such as getting dressed, grooming, bathing, using the bathroom, writing on a piece of paper, cooking meals, or eating with utensils. Sometimes these problems are the result of abnormal development or birth defects. Or, they may be the result of a medical problem. In these instances, a healthcare provider may prescribe occupational therapy.

There is a difference between physical therapy and occupational therapy. Physical therapy evaluates and treats weakness, range of motion in the joints, walking, endurance, and gross motor functioning. Occupational therapy also evaluates and treats pain, weakness, and range of motion in the joints. However, occupational therapy places focus more on fine motor ability, cognitive (reasoning) skills, activities of daily living, and problems with processing senses.  

The occupational therapist will assess deficits and determine a treatment plan during the initial visit.  Subsequent therapy sessions will focus on progressive treatments to overcome physical, functional and cognitive deficits.  Treatment may include the use of adaptive equipment to perform tasks that have become difficult, such as picking things up off the floor, putting on socks and shoes, putting on a pair of pants, using eating utensils, bathing and toileting. Therapy can also tailor treatment plans to help someone return to using a computer, driving a car, folding laundry and cooking a meal. They may use physical exercises to increase strength and flexibility. For patients with permanent disabilities, therapists will provide adaptive equipment such as splints. Occupational therapists can also assist in justifying the need for a wheelchair.

Occupational therapy is for people of all ages. Even small infants and toddlers may benefit from occupational therapy services. Occupational therapists can evaluate a child’s ability to perform age appropriate movement, progress in school and daily activities. This information can help the therapist customize a program that is appropriate for your child’s age and needs.

the following individuals with the following needs or conditions:


  • Work-related injuries
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Arthritis
  • Permanent disabilities
  • Developmental disorders such as (autism, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, others)
  • Head injuries
  • Mental health problems
  • Severe burns
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Deconditioning or weakness due to illness or surgery
  • Dementia and cognition

Things to Know

A physician referral is required to receive occupational therapy services. Occupational therapy practitioners work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Homecare
  • Clinics
  • Healthcare facilities
  • Schools
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Community centers
If you have been hurt in an accident, experienced debilitating illness, or have been hospitalized after receiving surgery, occupational therapy may be recommended to help you regain your independence. If you think you or your child may benefit from occupational therapy, talk to a healthcare provider for a referral to one of Intermountain Healthcare’s occupational therapy providers. Be sure to contact your insurance provider to find out if your plan covers the cost of occupational therapy.
Occupational therapy is a form of therapy that helps treat motion and skills problems associated with improper growth and development, accident related injuries, and a decline in abilities due to illness, surgery or age-related factors.