The Difference Between Occupational and Physical Therapists

Many people get confused about the difference between occupational and physical therapists.

Here’s a short primer on the difference.

Occupational therapists (OTs) generally focus their skills on evaluating and improving a person’s “functional” abilities. That is, the OT doesn’t directly treat an individual’s injuries but rather helps the patient optimize his or her independence and ability to live life day-to-day in as “normal” fashion as possible. People usually seek the services of an OT after an injury or when they’re physically impaired for some reason.

OTs sometimes help patients use adaptive tools that allow them to maneuver at home and at work. Occupational therapists also will go to a patient’s home or work site to assess and give recommendations regarding what adaptations and tools will help the patient achieve a better quality of life.

Physical therapists, on the other hand, focus their treatment more on treating injuries as well as on helping to prevent injury. A PT will diagnose and provide treatment by focusing on the injured tissues and muscles. PTs also receive extensive training in the human musculoskeletal system and anatomy (which often makes them more knowledgeable about these parts of the body than physicians!).

The confusion between OTs and PTs comes because they often both work with patients to improve an individual’s day-to-day functioning. In addition, OTs often educate their patients on their healing process and how to avoid injury — which is what PTs do as a matter of course.

Still, both professions play important, specialized roles and, in many situations, both are called in to help patients in their recovery.

Both occupational and physical therapists are greatly needed in rehabilitation facilities, hospitals and other healthcare services around the country. If you’re an OT or a PT and are looking to serve patients from different economic and regional backgrounds, contact a recruiter at Centra Healthcare Solutions. We look forward to discussing our opportunities with you!

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