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HealthInfo West Coast-Te Tai Poutini

Occupational therapists

Occupational therapy (OT) helps people take part in everyday activities despite disability or illness. Being involved in meaningful activities can improve a person's health and wellbeing.

Occupational therapists work with people of all ages and levels of ability. They work in hospitals, primary health care and aged care facilities. You will also find them in many non-profit organisations, workplaces, schools and private practices.

In the following video, members of Occupational Therapy New Zealand talk about what occupational therapists do.

How do I find an occupational therapist?

The hospital system provides some occupational therapy services. Talk to your GP about whether you or your family member is eligible for one of the following services:

ACC may pay for occupational therapy services that are needed due to an injury.

If you don't meet the criteria, or don't want to wait, you can pay to see a private occupational therapist. You may be able to claim the cost of your treatment through your health insurance. This will depend on the type of cover you have.

This link may help you find a private occupational therapist:

What qualifications do occupational therapists have?

In New Zealand, an occupational therapist has a Bachelor of Health Science in Occupational Therapy, which takes three years. Some occupational therapists also complete masters degrees or PhDs in their chosen specialties.

The Occupational Therapy Board of New Zealand regulates occupational therapists. All occupational therapists must hold a current practising certificate.

Occupational therapists and physiotherapists sometimes perform similar roles, for example in hand therapy. Sometimes occupational therapists and physiotherapists share skills so you might only have to see one professional.

What do occupational therapists do?

Occupational therapists assess and improve a person's safety and independence within their home, work, school and community. They do this by looking at environments, recommending modifications and prescribing disability aids.

Occupational therapists help people take part in everyday activities such as self-care, household management and leisure. They also help people take part in work, learning and community activities.

Occupational therapists help people restore skills, adapt tasks and learn self-management skills.

Occupational therapists work with:

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Adapted by the West Coast DHB. Last reviewed August 2016.

Page reference: 265165

Review key: HIOTS-231884