What is occupational therapy?
Occupational therapy helps people regain their confidence, abilities and self-reliance after ill health or an injury, or if they have a disability.
If you’ve had an accident or illness, an occupational therapist (OT) can help you recover and resume your daily activities. This can be anything from personal care routines and keeping active to working, socialising and enjoying leisure activities.
The OT will look at your mental and physical health, as well as social and environmental factors, and work with you to plan and achieve your goals.
Is occupational therapy suitable for me?
By looking at daily routines, equipment, home adaptations, technology and communications, OTs can help you recover from a wide range of medical conditions. OTs help with many conditions including arthritic conditions, stroke, Parkinson’s and dementia.
Here are some examples of situations where an OT can help:
- Care homes: OTs can support people living in residential care homes to ensure that they’re able to participate in daily life.
- Falls prevention: an OT can help you to move around safely and more easily, including if you have previously suffered a fall. Often, they work alongside physiotherapists to advise on equipment and techniques that can help prevent you from having falls. Read more about how to avoid falls.
- Home advice: an OT can visit to see whether simple changes in your routines could help you stay independent. They can also assess if you would benefit from specialist equipment or a home adaptation to make your life safer and more secure. OTs can also help if you are in the final stages of life and wish to receive end of life care at home, helping you to live as comfortably and independently as possible.
- Mental health: OTs can help people with mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety. They work with people individually or in groups to increase confidence in social situations and with managing daily life.
- Rehabilitation: if you have suffered from an illness or injury, an OT’s role will be to help you regain the independent living skills you need so you’re ready to be discharged home safely.
How to find an occupational therapist
If you have health problems or a disability that are affecting your wellbeing or safety, you can arrange for an occupational therapy assessment by contacting the local authority’s Adult Social Care department (Social Work Services in Scotland, Social Care Services in Northern Ireland). Click on the button below to locate your local authority’s website.
Your GP, social worker or nurse can also refer you for an appointment.
If you’re in hospital, OTs will often be part of the rehabilitation, recovery or discharge teams and you can ask to be seen by one before you go home. This is a good idea to ensure that you’re safely able to manage the daily activities within your home environment.
It’s also possible to contact a private OT through the Royal College of Occupational Therapists’ website. Private occupational therapists will visit you at home, but you will have to pay them yourself.
All OTs should be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), and are required to work to their professional codes of ethics and practice. You can check the credentials of occupational therapists on its website.
If you’re in hospital, OTs will often be part of the rehabilitation, recovery or discharge teams and you can ask to be seen by one before you go home.
How occupational therapy can help carers
If you care for your family member or friend in their home, an OT can make sure both you and your loved one are as safe and comfortable as possible. For example, they can demonstrate techniques or equipment you can use for moving the person you’re caring for in and out of chairs and into bed, or using the bath or toilet safely.
If you’re looking after someone, you’re also entitled to an assessment of your needs as a carer, which is usually carried out by a social worker or care manager. An OT can also be involved in this assessment to advise on the practical aspects of care.
How much does occupational therapy cost?
Social services or NHS
You don’t have to pay for occupational therapy sessions that are arranged by social services or the NHS.
If the OT thinks that you need equipment, a range of basic items of equipment will usually be provided by the council, but if you want something other than the essential ones, you may have to pay for it yourself.
If your home needs to be adapted to your needs, you can apply for the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG). The amount of money you can get and the processes for applying vary across the UK.
You’ll have to pay for consultations with a private OT. Make sure to ask about fees before you visit them. To find out if you could be eligible for occupational therapy through social services, you will have to have a needs assessment.
A home visit for a private assessment usually takes between one and two hours, and fees can vary between £300 and £500, depending on location and the specialism of the therapist.
If follow-up sessions are required, hourly rates can range from £40 to £70.
Bear in mind that consultations are geared towards recovery and independence rather than extended periods of treatment, and if any equipment is recommended, you’ll need to purchase this yourself.
It may be good to have a list of questions ready to ask an independent OT so you know what’s included before booking the first appointment:
- Is the fee inclusive of a full assessment report?
- Are travel time and expenses included in the fee?
- What are the arrangements for follow-up advice or appointments?
If you’ve had a fall, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce the chances of one happening again.
If you are eligible, government funding for home care may be available. We explain the means test and other rules.
Learn how physios can help older people with a range of conditions, and how to find one.