Occupational Therapy Courses

By Mariza Halliday - Last update

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What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy is the therapy that treats injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. Occupational therapists help these patients develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed to participate in the activities of everyday life.

Occupational therapy is a treatment for problems with movement and coordination. It helps people improve the motor skills involved in everyday tasks, like writing and getting dressed. These skills include fine and gross motor skills and motor planning. Therapists also work on coordination, balance, and self-regulation skills.

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering Occupational Therapy courses in the following subject areas:

  • Occupational Therapy Studies – Gain an understanding of the principles and practices of rehabilitation, treatment of injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities.
  • Certificate in Occupational Therapy Essentials – The study of working with both children and adults with limited physical and intellectual abilities.
  • CK 704 Occupational Therapy – The study of Occupational Therapy in both physical and mental health areas
  • Diploma in Occupational Psychology – The study of how people impact and are impacted by their workplace.

Studying Occupational Therapy in college

There are many Occupational Therapy courses that take place over 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like

Courses will cover all theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials and taught modules. Assessments will take place on a continuous basis with written examinations and practical assignments combined in order to achieve a qualification

You could also consider work experience or volunteering to help with an occupational therapy unit, within a hospital or social services. Contact your local hospital or local government social services department for more information on how to arrange a visit.

Work shadowing a qualified occupational therapist will provide an insight into the role. You could also try speaking to occupational therapists working in residential homes, homeless shelters or charities. Experience of working in health, social care, charity or a related area in either a paid or voluntary role is also beneficial.

Work Experience will not only give you the opportunity to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other industry professionals and gain valuable contacts for the future.

Career options

After completing a course in Occupational Therapy you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of movement and coordination.

Some occupational therapists work in educational settings with children one-on-one or in small groups. They evaluate disabled children’s abilities, modify classroom equipment to accommodate certain disabilities, and help children participate in school activities.

Occupational therapists who work with the elderly help their patients lead more independent and active lives. They assess the patient’s abilities and environment and make recommendations, such as using adaptive equipment or identifying and removing potential fall hazards in the home.

Occupational therapists also may work in mental health settings where they help patients who suffer from developmental disabilities, mental illness, or emotional problems. They help these patients cope with and engage in daily life by teaching skills such as time management, budgeting, using public transportation, and doing household chores. Additionally, therapists may work with individuals who have problems with drug abuse, alcoholism, depression or suffer from other disorders.

Some occupational therapists, such as those employed in hospitals or physicians’ offices, work as part of a healthcare team, along with doctors, registered nurses, and other types of therapists. They also may oversee the work of occupational therapy assistants and aides.

Working hours will depend on whether you are employed by a company with set business hours or if you are contracted to various facilities or companies. The hours are usually full time but may need to be flexible over a seven-day period and shift work is common. In private practice, you may work evenings and weekends to suit client needs. Travel within a working day is common if you work in the community.

Related jobs include:

  • Occupational therapist
  • Advice worker
  • Art therapist
  • Care manager
  • Ergonomist
  • Health improvement practitioner
  • High-intensity therapist
  • Life coach
  • Medical sales representative
  • Play therapist
  • Psychological wellbeing practitioner
  • Social worker
  • Special educational needs teacher
  • Teaching assistant

Further study

After completing a course in Occupational Therapy you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skillset. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practise in certain career areas such as medicine, orthopaedics, research into new techniques in occupational therapy or working in education, either training in a department or lecturing in an educational institution.

It is also possible to go straight into a chosen specialism such as alcohol and substance abuse, burns and plastic surgery, mental health or stroke rehabilitation.


What is the difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy?

Occupational therapists and physical therapists are different but work closely together. Physical therapy involves focusing on movement and regaining strength after an injury.

Are there different areas that Occupational Therapists train in?

Generally there are 8 areas of occupation that OTs are trained in:

  • Activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs)
  • Sleep and rest
  • Work
  • Education
  • Play
  • Leisure
  • Social participation

What can I expect from occupational therapy?

  • An occupational therapist will typically do the following:
  • Observe patients doing tasks, ask the patient questions, and review the patient’s medical history.
  • Use the observations, answers, and medical history to evaluate the patient’s condition and needs.
  • Establish a treatment plan for patients, laying out the types of activities and specific goals to be accomplished.
  • Help people with various disabilities with different tasks, such as helping an older person with poor memory use a computer or leading an autistic child in play activities.
  • Demonstrate exercises that can help relieve pain for people with chronic conditions, such as joint stretches for arthritis sufferers.
  • Evaluate a patient’s home or workplace and identify how it can be better suited to the patient’s health needs.
  • Educate a patient’s family and employer about how to accommodate and care for the patient
  • Recommend special equipment, such as wheelchairs and eating aids, and instruct patients how to use that equipment.
  • Patients with permanent disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, often need help performing daily tasks. Occupational therapists show patients how to use appropriate adaptive equipment, such as leg or knee braces, wheelchairs, and eating aids. Patients can function independently and control their living environment by using these devices.

Where can I study Occupational Therapy?

Explore your options here

Did You Know?

  • Occupational Therapy began to thrive during World War I and World War II where the US Military began recognizing the benefit of using “reconstruction aids” who would use occupation as a means of treatment for wounded soldiers to return to the battlefront.
  • Approximately 27% of occupational therapists work with children in early intervention and the school systems. Occupational therapist work with a wide range of diagnoses for children including Autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, traumatic brain injuries, premature infants, and many more.
  • Occupational therapy’s first meeting was held in 1917 by the National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy (NSPOT) where 3 women and 3 men attended.

Mariza Halliday

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