Choosing an Occupational Therapist

Who are Occupational Therapists?
Occupational therapists are dedicated and highly-educated, licensed health care professionals. Their role in healthcare is to help patients to perform all kinds of daily activities including work or school activities, caring for daily needs such as dressing, eating or cooking, or using adaptive equipment like wheelchairs and hearing aids.
Occupational therapists treat a variety of patients including children and older adults. Typical reasons why people will see the services of an occupational therapist include spinal cord injuries, head injuries, stroke, work-related injuries, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, infants and toddlers who have or are at risk for developmental delays and children with learning disabilities.

Where do Occupational Therapists Practice?

  • Hospitals
  • Day Care facilities
  • Nursing Homes
  • Schools
  • Universities
  • Community Centers
  • Workplaces
  • Client Homes/Residential Settings
  • Private Practice

What are the Educational Requirements for becoming an Occupational Therapist?
All occupational therapists must receive a Masters degree from an accredited occupational therapy university or college program. Field work is usually performed in hospitals, private homes, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and clinics under the direction of a licensed occupational therapist before taking the national licensure exam that allows them to practice.

Different degree levels are currently offered in occupational therapist education programs:

  • Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy (The minimal amount of required education).
  • Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)
  • Doctor of Occupational Therapy (ODT)

What are the Licensure Requirements for becoming an Occupational Therapist?
After graduation, candidates must pass a state-administered national exam. Other requirements for occupational therapy practice vary from state to state according to occupational therapy practice acts or state regulations that govern physical therapy.

How to Choose an Occupational Therapist
Seek the services of an occupational therapist that can help you with your condition. Many OTs specialize in treating specific conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, patients who have had a stroke, work-related injuries or seniors.  

Always make sure that your occupational therapy is provided by a licensed occupational therapist. Occupational therapists are professional health care providers and they are licensed by the state in which they practice. If you receive occupational therapy from an Occupational therapy assistant (OTAs) be sure that the OTA is supervised by a licensed occupational therapist.

Once you have chosen an occupational therapist, make certain to inquire if the clinic participates with your health insurance company as this should minimize your out-of-pocket financial responsibility.  Many occupational therapists list the insurance plans that they participate in on their websites; but you should always call the clinic as this information may not be up to date.

There are some circumstances where it might make sense to see an occupational therapist who does not participate in your health insurance plan. Some of those circumstances could include special skills related to your particular health issue, or if the clinic location is more convenient for you.

Inquire whether the occupational therapy clinic submits health insurance claims on the behalf of their patients. Some policies require co-payments at the time of service and the amount of the co-pay will depend on whether the occupational therapist is a part of the insurer’s provider network.

You may also have to meet your deductible, which can vary from health plan to health plan.

Always ask for an estimate of your financial responsibility prior to seeking treatment.

Your first office visit should include an evaluation by the occupational therapist to identify current and/or potential conditions. Based on the examination results, the OT will develop a plan of care that will include recommended adaptations and will propose a timetable to achieve the goals.

Always make sure to ask questions. Your health and wellness and ultimate recovery depends upon how well you and your occupational therapist communicate.
Use PREFERRED’s Provider Locator to find highly qualified providers in your area.

For more information on occupational therapists, visit the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) website: