Role of Occupational Therapy in Traumatic Injury Recovery

Published - December 16, 2014

Occupational therapy practitioners play a vital role in the work that rehabilitation professionals carry out day after day. They specialize in assisting individuals who have suffered from traumatic injury – such as brain or spine injuries – and working with them to help reintegrate them back into the community. The education and training needed for most occupational therapists make them experts at determining an individual’s performance abilities and what methods work best for addressing those needs and reaching milestone goals.


The Role of Occupational Therapy

This career field covers work that is done to help the injured relearn and re-adapt to all aspects of life, including basic things like self-care and other instrumental activities necessary for day to day life, like home management, sleep schedules, behavioral habits, cooking and cleaning, work demands, driving, shopping, social interaction, personal wellness, and family dynamics. This is achieved by using guided, graded instructions that are set up to mimic real life situations that they are likely to encounter at home, at work, while shopping, on the bus, or in any other basic, normal situation. Occupational therapy practitioners can address physical needs such as strength and mobility, or mental needs such as logic, reasoning, communication, and problem solving. They work as part of a team, often in a partnership with neuro-psychologist, social workers, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, and other professionals like teachers, vocation counselors, or employers.

Assistance Plan and Therapy

Because every individual is unique and every injury or issue they are facing is different, each person’s plan for treatment and reintegration will be unique to them. The following are just a few broad areas an occupational therapy practitioner commonly focuses on in their day to day work with their patients:

• Teach memory and recall techniques along with the use of aids such as daily planners, clocks, technological devices, calendars, post it notes, check lists, and similar aids.

• Assist in developing beneficial systems and routines to help patients.

• Instruct care takers and family members on how to address changes in behavior and how to help the individual cope with these ‘bad days’.

• Recommend changes that can be made to the environment to make things easier – label cabinets, post notes on the refrigerator, and similar helpful tricks.

• Assist in developing new social interaction skills and behaviors.

• Offer real world situational training to practice what has been taught and to reinforce skills.

• Provide assistance with learning and adapting the most common activities of daily living in order to help the patient be as self-sufficient as possible.

• Provide training for important functions of the family dynamics such as child care and personal/romantic relations with family members.

• Consult and work closely with employers and/or educational systems so work and education can be available to the individual patient.


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