Techniques and equipment used in occupational therapy

Many different techniques and equipment can be used as part of occupational therapy, depending on the problems you are having.

Some of these techniques are explained below.

Thinking about activities differently

A key aim of occupational therapy is to help you develop or maintain a satisfying routine of meaningful everyday activities that can give you a sense of direction and purpose.

This can include help with things like community living skills such as budgeting, domestic or personal care routines, leisure activities, and involvement in work or voluntary activities.

An occupational therapist will look at the activity you are finding difficult and see if there is another way it can be completed. For example, if you are finding it difficult to:

  • peel and chop vegetables – perhaps you could buy vegetables that are already prepared
  • walk to your local shop – perhaps there is a bus that runs past your house or you may be able to do your shopping on the internet
  • do the ironing – perhaps you could sit down while you iron

An occupational therapist will also help find new ways to carry out an activity by breaking it down into small individual movements, and will then practise the steps with you.

For example, if you cannot get up out of a chair without assistance, an occupational therapist will go through each stage of the movement with you until you can confidently get up on your own.

For children, an occupational therapist may develop a game or activity that your child can complete daily. This could be aimed at improving your child’s:

  • hand strength
  • concentration
  • social skills

Focusing on a small goal, such as improved hand strength, may eventually help with larger problems, such as your child’s ability to dress themselves.

Adapting your environment

Part of occupational therapy may involve making an environment suitable for your physical or cognitive needs. This could be your home, workplace or where you are studying, and may involve changes such as:

  • putting in ramps, so an area can be accessed in a wheelchair
  • fitting a stairlift
  • fitting grab rails, for example by the stairs or beside the bed
  • fitting a raised toilet seat, bath lift or shower seat to make the bathroom easier to use
  • clearing up clutter, reorganising cupboards or providing visual cues so you can safely move around and reach what you need

Using special equipment

Occupational therapists can also advise about what special tools or pieces of equipment you may find helpful. For example:

  • a walking stick, walking frame or a wheelchair
  • electric can openers or electric toothbrushes
  • knives with large handles and chunky pens (if you have difficulty holding small objects)
  • a non-slip mat for the bath
  • a special keyboard or mouse to help you use a computer
  • voice-controlled lights or voice-controlled software on a computer

You should mention any difficulties to your occupational therapist, no matter how small they seem, as there may be all kinds of specialised equipment available. For example, you could have a special comb to style your hair more easily, or a device to turn the pages of a book.

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