Faculty / Staff Resources Student Resources
University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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So . . . What Is OT?

Jessica P

February 21, 2019
by Jessica P

What are OS/OT?

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So you like help people find jobs? Is it basically the same thing as physical therapy? These are just two of the questions you may be hearing a lot when you tell people that you are studying occupational therapy. As relatively youthful profession, I mean we are only 102 years old, occupational therapy is not always well known and represented in society or healthcare professions. Many people make assumptions about what we as OTs do and as an OT student I love that I get a chance to teach others about this amazing profession and the role that it can play in so many people’s lives.

Over the years, I have gotten pretty good at my “OT elevator pitch.” This is just a quick way to describe occupational therapy to someone who may have never even heard of the profession before. In one of our courses, OT 523: Communication Skills for Effective Practice, we even had the opportunity to develop our elevator pitches and get feedback from classmates. Being able to confidently share about my profession allows me to explain the unique occupational therapy lens, advocate for my future patients on why they may need OT, and educate others on a profession they may be interested in pursuing.

So . . . what is OT?

Occupational therapy is a holistic, healthcare profession which helps people of all ages and abilities do the things they need to do and want to do in their day to day lives. An occupation is not just your job, it is anything you do that occupies your time.

Across the lifespan, our occupations will obviously look different. When I was 2 months old, my main occupations were sleeping and eating. Now at 22, my occupations look very different — attending class, hanging out with friends, and working. As I get older, my occupations will again shift and look different. Occupational therapists come in when there is something that prevents you from living your life to the fullest, the way you want to. This could be from anything, such as a mental illness or physical disability. 

So . . . where do OTs work?

The short answer to this is OTs work pretty much everywhere. Occupational therapists can be found working in hospitals, private clinics, schools, home health, corporations, community centers, psychiatric hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, university medical and research centers…and more!

After years of explaining to people that I want to be an occupational therapist, I’ve found it’s best to make it relatable to them. Ask someone “What is your favorite thing to do?” and “How would you feel if you could no longer do this?” Voila! That is where occupational therapy will come in.