What Is Outpatient Occupational Therapy?

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  • Written By: Pablo Garcia
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 02 April 2020
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Outpatient occupational therapy is rehabilitative therapy to enable a person recovering from surgery or an injury to carry out daily activities to the best of their ability and live in their community as independently as possible. It can address physical injuries like sprains, fractures, and muscle tears. It may also involve cognitive issues like short term memory loss due to head trauma or speech problems following a stroke. Therapy plans are designed to deal with the specific medical issues while fitting into the patient’s daily schedule of work, school, or other activities.

Many outpatient rehabilitation centers require a referral from a physician, surgical assistant, or nurse practitioner to begin outpatient occupational therapy. There are many work related injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and other strain injuries that result from daily repetition of specific physical tasks. Athletes and those with jobs involving strenuous physical activity can suffer from strained and torn muscles or have chronic regional pain. Therapy deals not only with work related injuries but also with injuries and conditions that prevent someone from returning to work, working at full capacity, or doing routine daily tasks. These include illnesses like stroke, and chronic conditions such fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis.


Outpatient occupational therapy centers are usually staffed by licensed physical therapists trained to develop and implement a rehabilitation regimen for specific conditions. Therapy specialties can include such areas as hand therapy, specific occupation therapy, and speech and language pathology. There are also neurological therapists who work with difficulties in controlling physical movement brought about by stroke or head injury. Therapy regimens can involve aquatic therapy, cycling, and muscle training.

Helping a patient adapt to physical injuries that will not change or cannot be fully recovered from are an important part of outpatient occupational therapy services. This assistance might include learning to use a wheelchair or prosthetic devices. Different types of injuries may require learning the use of other adaptive equipment like braces and walkers. Patients may also have to learn to use adaptive mechanisms for driving a car.

In cases of neurological and brain injuries, cognitive rehabilitation can involve relearning many basic tasks of daily living. For these patients, simple tasks like getting dressed or bathing may be difficult. Basic knowledge like the identity of colors or the meanings of words may have to be relearned. For some patients, assessments and training may be necessary before they can safely drive again. The goal of outpatient rehabilitation therapy is for the patient to eventually function in the home or work setting as independently as possible.



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