I wanted to write a blog post about occupations and what this means in the context of occupational therapy. When you hear the word ‘occupations’ most people will think that it’s work / job related. Occupations are not just employment. They are any task that we spend our energy and time on that is essential to us.
Categories of Occupation in OT
Occupational Therapy categorises occupations into groups. Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), Sleep / Rest, Work, Education. Play, Leisure, Social Participation and Health Management.
In occupational therapy it is not for the occupational therapist to decide which occupations a person wants to do. It is the person! An OT’s job is to ensure that their clients/patients can do their meaningful occupations. Even if the chosen occupation isn’t something we would typically advocate for. OT’s will ensure that the person is well informed and knows the risks associated with this occupation.
Some occupations are viewed as essential, we do them daily. Washing and dressing, going to the toilet, mobilising, sleeping. These occupations typically have lots of physical aspects to them.
Other occupations are more complex. Daily tasks like medication management, health management, household management – laundry, paying bills, pet care. These occupations typically have lots of cognitive aspects to them.
There are occupations that can be co-occupations e.g. parenthood or caring responsibilities. They can be a shared and have a range of different roles and tasks involved. There are also non-sanctioned occupations. These are occupations that are considered unhealthy e.g. alcohol and smoking. These can be viewed as socially unacceptable.
Leisure occupations are things that we do because an individual enjoys them, and we do them for happiness and pleasure. These can be everything and anything e.g. baking, gardening, reading, painting, yoga, listening to music. They can overlap with ADLs but the purpose for doing them was not for productivity. These occupations make us feel empowered and optimistic as well as improve our self-esteem.
These occupations can be things that we like or find meaningful. That we need or want to do with others or with aids or on our own. Or a mix of the above!
Quality of Life
I want to try and explain what makes occupational therapy unique and different from other healthcare professions. Occupational therapy gives life to days rather days to your life. Simply put this means it is enhancing your quality of life. According to, the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) occupations are essential to living. OT’s asks individuals what matters to them, rather than telling them what the matter with them is. I believe that the core value and significance of occupations in a person’s life impacts their feeling of wholeness and holistic health and wellbeing.
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.The World Health Organization
Therefore, to achieve a state of health all aspects need to be considered. This is what an occupational therapist does. We are trained in mental and physical health meaning that we understand bio-psycho-social needs. So, in assessment, we look at the individual overall and consider their daily activities. In addition to this, we consider occupations that are meaningful and purposeful to them. This can lead to increasing independence, social inclusion and enhancing quality of life. What we do moulds our identity, and we also communicate who we are by what we do.
As said by RCOT, occupations are the building blocks to life. It is important to consider that occupations are everchanging and evolving as the person goes through life. There are variables that impact occupations these are age, beliefs, environment, health, interests, motivations, resources, stages of life and values.
Occupations are vital for ensuring that we live our life with principles, purpose, significance, and structure. This is important to consider as an assumption held in society is that the individual needs to be “fixed” and not the environment. Because of this, individuals who are seen as different will have experienced barriers in lots of different aspects of their day-to-day. Which impacts on their ability to complete their meaningful occupations. I hope this shows how ordinary things you do in day-to-day life can hold such impact and power.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope you found it useful. If you would like to leave comments, please do. I’m a University of Coventry Student Occupational Therapist coming towards the end of placement with Jo. If you’d like to get in touch please contact Jo and pass along a message.