What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy assists people to achieve optimal participation in their day-to-day activities, including self-care, hobbies, education, home management, volunteering, and employment.  Occupational therapy addresses barriers in participation due to illness, disability, or social, institutional, or physical environment.  Occupational therapy is not vocational counselling or work training.  It is to help everyone who would like to overcome limitations in their lives and activities.  

What should I expect when I meet with an occupational therapist? 

Your occupational therapist will complete an assessment of your functional abilities, identify treatment goals, and develop a treatment plan.


When you see an occupational therapist, they will assess and evaluate your functional abilities, the activities with which you are having challenges, and how your environment affects your ability to complete these activities. The occupational therapist will discuss your priorities for treatment with you.  The occupational therapist will focus on your ability to choose, organize, and effectively and safely perform everyday activities.


Once your occupational therapist has a better understanding of your challenges, together, you and your OT will develop a personalized plan to improve, maintain, or restore your functional abilities and your health based on your needs.

The treatment/intervention plan may include:

In addition to direct care to individuals of all ages, occupational therapists may also work with groups and communities assuming the role of researcher, educator, manager, consultant, advocate, and/or program planner.  The diversity of this profession continues to expand with occupational therapists frequently working in less traditional hospital-based health care roles.

What are the qualifications of occupational therapists?

Occupational therapists are professionals who are university-trained and who have completed a minimum of 1000 hours of supervised fieldwork experience. In most provinces, occupational therapists are required to pass a national certification examination before they are eligible to practise independently.

In the province of Nova Scotia, an occupational therapist must be registered with the College of Occupational Therapists of Nova Scotia.

Where can I find an occupational therapist?

Occupational therapy services are available through the public health care system or private practice. Occupational therapists are available through many facilities:  hospitals, care facilities, community clinics, mental health facilities, private clinics, or offices.  Many occupational therapists do make house calls and are willing to travel to you. 

Who covers the cost of an occupational therapist?

To access occupational therapists through the public health care system, ask your doctor or nurse. You may also find information on the Nova Scotia Health website.  Occupational therapists in private practice charge a fee for their service and can be directly accessed by the public.  If you have private health insurance, check with your insurance company to see if it offers occupational therapy as an extended health care benefit.  If you are injured at work, occupational therapy services may be covered by Worker's Compensation.  If you are involved in an automobile accident, your auto insurance plan may cover the cost of occupational therapy services.  Your employer may cover the cost of an ergonomic assessment or job site analysis by an occupational therapist as a means of identifying risks for work-related injuries and/or proposing modifications to your work site to enhance work safety and productivity.