Occupational Therapy Assistants

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Also known as:  Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, COTA, Licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant, Occupational Therapist Assistants


Occupational therapy is designed to help people recover from disabilities caused by injury or illness. Therapists determine exercises and other activities needed for rehabilitation, and then assign occupational therapist assistants to provide hands-on help.

Under the guidance of therapists, ...
these assistants work with people of all ages to lessen the effects of physical, mental, or developmental problems. For example, an assistant may guide an injured person through exercises to overcome the loss of a physical ability. This may require kneeling and bending to help patients, or lifting them when necessary.

Assistants are expected to carefully follow directions given by occupational therapists. They need to be observant because they are responsible for reporting on the patients' progress, or lack of progress. Many occupational therapist assistants work in hospitals. Others work in offices of occupational therapists, nursing care facilities, or in-home health care services.

Work hours vary from place to place and may include evenings and weekends. Occupational therapist assistants must have an associate degree or certificate from an accredited community college or technical school. All states require graduates to become certified by passing an examination.

Opportunities for jobs are increasing. As the population ages, more people will develop disabilities. That means that people will need the care of occupational therapist assistants.
Assist occupational therapists in providing occupational therapy treatments and procedures. May, in accordance with State laws, assist in development of treatment plans, carry out routine functions, direct activity programs, and document the progress of treatments. Generally requires formal training.
Critical decision making
Level of responsibilities
Job challenge and pressure to meet deadlines
Dealing and handling conflict
Competition for this position
Communication with others
Work closely with team members, clients etc.
Comfort of the work setting
Exposure to extreme environmental conditions
Exposure to job hazards
Physical demands
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Attend continuing education classes.
Attend care plan meetings to review patient progress and update care plans.
Order any needed educational or treatment supplies.
Monitor patients' performance in therapy activities, providing encouragement.
Design, fabricate, or repair assistive devices or make adaptive changes to equipment or environments.
Evaluate the daily living skills or capacities of physically, developmentally, or emotionally disabled clients.
Aid patients in dressing and grooming themselves.
Transport patients to and from the occupational therapy work area.
Perform clerical duties, such as scheduling appointments, collecting data, or documenting health insurance billings.
Assemble, clean, or maintain equipment or materials for patient use.
Work under the direction of occupational therapists to plan, implement, or administer educational, vocational, or recreational programs that restore or enhance performance in individuals with functional impairments.
Assisting and Caring for Others Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
Documenting/Recording Information Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Performing General Physical Activities Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling of materials.
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
Psychology Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Education and Training Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
English Language Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
Therapy and Counseling Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
Customer and Personal Service Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Medicine and Dentistry Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
Public Safety and Security Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Philosophy and Theology Knowledge of different philosophical systems and religions. This includes their basic principles, values, ethics, ways of thinking, customs, practices, and their impact on human culture.
Oral Expression The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Oral Comprehension The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Problem Sensitivity The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
Written Comprehension The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Written Expression The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
Speech Clarity The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
Deductive Reasoning The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
Inductive Reasoning The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
Reading Comprehension Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
Active Listening Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Writing Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
Speaking Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Time Management Managing one's own time and the time of others.
Social Perceptiveness Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Judgment and Decision Making Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
Monitoring Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.