There are two definitions of occupational therapy:

1. The original meaning of the word is the type of therapy organized for prisoners and people with a psychological disorder. The aim of the therapy is to keep the people busy with some sort of activity like making the pegs manually, knitting or pottery and making figures out of clay.
2. Nowadays it is used in a broader sense and with some degree of sarcasm: occupational therapy is applicable to anybody who's doing something that doesn't really make sense, isn't particularly useful, or some activity you like performing but nobody cares about at all...(does this sound familiar?)
Example: I've set up a webserver on one of the machines in the testlab. The site is only accessible via our intranet, and the information on the pages is only useful to my colleges who are sitting right beside me... but it gave me something to do to kill my more than sufficient amount of slacktime at work.
When I had problems with my fingers, and more recently, with my back, I took therapy that consisted of exercises and even heat. Generically, this is referred to as physical and occupational therapy.

In this sense, the exercises were not meant to occupy persons who have nothing else to do, but to help people whose occupations lead to physical problems--today many will suffer repetitive stress injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Maybe, some people don't care about what they are doing--certainly many information technologists have nothing invested in their work; others have a greater involvement in what they do, and seek not to experience pain when they do it, and even more, to be efficient when they do it--playing the piano, for instance.

Occupational therapy is one of the allied health sciences, along with physical therapy and speech language therapy. These professions are often found in the same area of a hospital or nursing home, and overlap in many areas of treatment. Occupational therapy (OT) uses occupation (meaning the performing of activities with specific goals), to help people prevent, lessen, or overcome physical, neurological and psychosocial disabilities. It focuses on therapy to help people preform the 'occupation' of daily living, referred to in the field as 'activities of daily living' or ADLs.

While a physical therapist (PT) works directly in rehabilitating the muscles that are damaged or not working correctly, an occupational therapist (OT) works on the activities that an individual wishes (or needs) to perform. Even if a person with multiple sclerosis (for example) may not be 'fixable' by a PT, an OT can work with them to find ways for them to do what they need to do, by finding adaptive technology, modifying the task at hand, or by exercising new skills that will allow them to work around their disability.

OTs work on many issues, including feeding (both infant and adult), positioning, adaptive technology, sensory integration, handwriting, and many other skills that often seem somewhat random to the outsider. OT also covers some of the same ground as recreational therapy, in that both help an individual develop interests and skills for leisure and recreational activities.

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