Professional Skills an Occupational Therapist Needs

If you’re interested in training to be an Occupational Therapist, before you start looking at Occupational Therapy jobs, it’s important to do some honest self-examination and decide if you have the right personal qualities an OT needs. While training courses are thorough and leave you qualified to practice, Occupational Therapy is a demanding and intense job personally, and if you’re a natural fit for it you will have a less stressful time than someone who has to adapt themselves more to the demands of the job.

Communication

One of the most important things for an Occupational Therapist is to be a clear communicator: OTs are reactive, working with patients to restore or maintain independence in areas their conditions make difficult.

To do this, Occupational Therapists have to work with the specific needs and desires of their patients, not blindly apply procedure. Natasha Lockyer gives the example of a financial executive who had suffered a severe stroke and experienced difficulty using language and recognising objects. His goal was not to return to work in the City but to be able to cook and serve dinner for his wife. OTs need to work closely with their patients to find the unique and personal aims that mean the most to them, and this is not possible without excellent communication skills: not just listening but asking the right questions to elicit answers from people who may have difficulty communicating their needs.

Problem Solving

Once they know the areas they want to focus on with a patient, an OT will need to be a good creative problem solver to help them find a solution that works for them. Even people with similar conditions may need radically different solutions, depending as much on their background and opinion on what ‘helplessness’ looks like as on their physical needs.

To one person, support bars by the bath may be far less acceptable to a stool or chair tucked discretely into a separate shower cubicle. An OT needs a creative problem-solving mind that can apply the broad knowledge of their training to the specific needs of an individual.

Strength and Resilience

This covers both physical strength and mental resilience. Most Occupational Therapists work across multiple locations, visiting clients in their homes to make assessments and offer advice over the course of a day. It’s a busy schedule that requires good organisation – to establish a good rapport with the people you’re working with you can’t afford to be late, or appear anything less than wholly focussed on your time with them.

Being able to keep your last appointment of the day on time, with the same focus and good nature as the first is demanding and requires a core strength that’s physical, mental and emotional.

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