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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Occupational therapists

Nga kaiwhakaora ngangahau

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

What occupational therapists do

OTsOccupational 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. They help people restore skills, adapt tasks and learn self-management skills.

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 work with:

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

Finding an occupational therapist

The hospital system provides some occupational therapy services. If you meet certain criteria your general practice team or specialist may refer you to see an occupational therapist through the public health system.

ACC may pay for occupational therapy services you need due to an injury.

If you do not meet the criteria, or do not 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.

You can search for an occupational therapist on the Occupational Therapy New Zealand website or Healthpoint.

Qualifications for occupational therapists

In New Zealand, an occupational therapist has a bachelor's degree in either Occupational Therapy or 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.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed December 2022.


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Review key: HIOTS-231884