We've all heard of physical therapists, and they get all the credit for helping people recover from certain conditions and injuries. Well, there are around 20,000 occupational therapists in Canada who would like to set the record straight on what they do!
Luckily, we can make that easy for them! Let's talk about occupational therapy, what it is, and whether or not you can benefit from it!
What Is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy is a treatment for certain neuromuscular, movement, and coordination disorders. The treatment seeks to help people improve their motor skills for everyday tasks for both fine motor skills like typing and gross motor skills like walking.
OT can be used as a treatment method for a wide variety of different ailments that affect motor skills from brain damage to cognitive impairments and more.
Occupational therapists develop plans to work on coordination, balance, and motor control for people of all ages.
Occupational Therapy vs Physical Therapy
Occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT) are often used interchangeably as they have many similarities. However, there are some key distinctions between the two.
The key difference is that OT is designed to improve a patient's overall ability to perform activities within daily life, whereas PT focuses on specific movements of the human body.
For example, if somebody broke their hip and they need to redevelop their ability to walk and nothing more, they will likely seek out the help of a physical therapist.
Consequently, if somebody has an overall difficulty performing various motor skills, they will likely require the help of an occupational therapist.
Who Can Occupational Therapy Benefit?
Unlike PT, occupational therapy can help people from all walks of life with a number of different health conditions. Here are just a few examples.
People With Arthritis or Chronic Pain
These conditions are known to be debilitating for many people, but there are treatments available to help alleviate their effects. If you have chronic pain or arthritis, OT can help prevent it from controlling your life.
People Who Have Had a Stroke
Strokes devastate the entire body and can have lasting effects if left untreated. Part of the recovery process involves intensive rehabilitation for which an occupational therapist is often needed.
People With Brain Injuries
Your brain controls everything, and certain brain injuries can cause trouble for your motor skills, especially during childhood, as these skills are still developing. In this case, OT is a common addition to a recovery plan after a brain injury.
People With Spinal Cord Injuries
Your spinal cord is responsible for attaching your brain to its nerves. Every motor skill in your body requires electrical impulses that are carried through your spinal cord. If you have a spinal cord injury or a spinal operation, OT will likely be part of your recovery plan.
People Who Have Had Joint Replacements
No matter how advanced medical devices have become in recent years, they will never be the same as the original joint. Because of this, many recipients need to relearn how to perform certain motor functions, which often requires OT in some form.
People With Poor Balance
Balance and coordination are critical for everyday life in one form or another. Whether it's trouble staying balanced while getting dressed or balance for a manual labor job, OT may be in your best interest for long-term quality of life.
People With Low Vision
Hand-eye coordination requires working eyes. OT can help improve motor skills for those who have trouble seeing.
Believe it or not, OT can even help diabetics with glycemic control or regulating blood sugar. Not only that, but it can also help empower diabetics to take control of their situations and lives with diabetes, rather than letting their diabetes control them.
People With Cancer
Certain types of cancer are debilitating for many, especially if it affects the brain or spine. OT is bound to help improve quality of life, mood, and recovery from its worst effects.
People With Cerebral Palsy
OT can help patients with cerebral palsy strengthen their neuromuscular connections over time. This helps improve quality of life and delay the onset of the disease's worst effects.
People With Multiple Sclerosis
Like cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis is a genetic neurodegenerative disease that affects motor skills. MS dramatically affects the neuromuscular connections over time, and OT is a great way to delay the onset of its worst effects.
People With Mental Health or Behavioural Issues
Occupational therapists in the mental health field focus on helping individuals engage in meaningful occupations by helping to develop skills such as establishing positive habits, setting therapy goals, using cognitive-behavioral techniques (CBT), and more.
What Can Occupational Therapy Help With?
Unlike physical therapy, OT is known to help with a wide variety of different conditions and improve your overall quality of life. Here are just a few examples of how.
Your Physical Abilities
Your physical abilities are determined primarily by your neuromuscular control whether through fine or gross motor skills. OT has been shown to dramatically improve participants' motor skills over time, which leads to overall higher quality of life.
Your Mental Abilities
We mentioned how OT improves a participant's mental health, but it can even help improve cognitive and behavioral abilities. This is one of the reasons why OT is such a common treatment for autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and other conditions that affect neurological abilities.
Finding the Right Materials or Devices to Help You
Some clients need extra help getting through their days and OT helps determine which items may offer that support.
For example, a person with autism may be given sensorimotor materials that help with emotional and cognitive support throughout the day. This could include earphones to block out sound, fidget toys to occupy their hands, and more.
Finding the Right Emotional Support
This is another major factor in OT's improvement of mental health. When you attend OT sessions, you are given tools to use throughout the day for emotional support.
For example, a client with depression will benefit from having regular sessions with a professional and be given the tools to get through their daily routines on their own.
Organizing the Physical Set-up for Your Home, Workspace, or Classroom
A large part of developing healthy routines and habits is organizing the spaces you use daily. This will help improve quality of life, mental health, and productivity throughout your day.
What Happens During an Occupational Therapy Session?
Occupational therapy sessions will look different on a case-by-case basis for different conditions and circumstances.
For example, a session for a person who was in a car accident will be very different from a person with cancer, so there is no one right answer. A consultation with an occupational therapist is the best way to understand how an individualized session would work.
How Long Would One Need Occupational Therapy For?
While this depends heavily on the individual and circumstances, occupational therapy isn't usually a lifelong process. However, we can provide general guidelines.
Treatment Duration for Adults
Somebody with a lifelong illness like MS or cerebral palsy will need OT for as long as possible, whereas somebody who is recovering from a stroke may only need a few months of help. Scheduling a consultation with an occupational therapist will offer the best insight.
What Is The Success Rate of Occupational Therapy?
The success rate will ultimately depend on the condition, severity, and duration of treatment. However, OT has been shown to be highly effective for both children and adults for various conditions.
According to the NIH in the United States, studies have shown that around 77 of 95 participants showed major improvement after their prescribed treatments. That is a success rate of over 81%.
Where Do Occupational Therapists Work?
Occupational therapists may come to your home, work, or classroom upon request for certain sessions, and can even be found in:
- Rehabilitation Centres
- Nursing or Assisted Living Homes
- Outpatient Clinics
- Private Practice Offices
- Corporate Offices
- Industrial Workplaces
Their services don't have to take place in a particular setting, as the equipment is often either portable or unnecessary depending on the patient's needs.
How Much Does Occupational Therapy Cost in Canada?
The average cost of occupational therapy is $140 per hour across Canada (before insurance coverage), but the costs will vary between provinces and localities. It's best to reach out and get a quote before making any decisions.
If you live in Alberta, you're in luck!
Alberta falls slightly below the national average. On the low end in Alberta, you should expect to pay around $101 an hour for services. On the higher end, around $121.
Flat rates in BC can cost up to $1,800 a month for regular sessions. However, the hourly rate can be as low as $100 and as high as $225, so it's important to either shop around or find coverage.
Make note that if you live in a larger metro area like Vancouver, prices are likely to be on the higher end.
For an initial session, you should expect to pay between $150 and $200 per hour in Manitoba. After the initial evaluation, sessions will likely cost between $50 and $400 each.
New Brunswick has similar costs to Manitoba for initial sessions. However, the cost tends to stay consistent after that, meaning that sessions should typically fall between $150 and $200 an hour.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Finding an occupational therapist in your area within the province is likely to be your biggest challenge, as they are scarce. However, if you do, you should expect to pay the average rate of $140 an hour.
OT sessions in Nova Scotia are typically around $120 for 50-minute sessions. However, prices may be higher in metro areas like Halifax.
If you live in a metro area within Ontario, you should have no problem finding an occupational therapist. You should expect to pay between $105 and $130 for each 50-minute session.
Prince Edward Island
Residents of PEI should expect to pay close to the national average of $140. Although, ranges can fall as low as $105 to $120.
Generally, you should expect to pay around $120 per session in Quebec. However, these numbers may go up in Montreal or Quebec City.
Finally, Saskatchewan residents should expect to pay around $120 per 50-minute session. Remember, all prices listed above will depend on the OT professional and your insurance coverage, so don't forget to look into that!
Do Provincial Plans Cover the Cost of Occupational Therapy?
It is likely that your provincial health plan will offer some funding toward occupational therapy for certain conditions.
However, it depends heavily on the plan that you have, your age, and your medical qualifications if you qualify for OT coverage. However, most disability insurance policies will cover both OT and PT for clients in need. If you qualify for disability coverage, you should contact your insurance provider about OT.
Final Thoughts on Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy is very beneficial for many people, and it can drastically improve the quality of life for patients from all walks of life. If you require these services, then reach out to an OT professional today and seek help! If you have any questions about insurance coverage, feel free to contact us right away! Don't forget to check out our disclaimer for the above prices, figures, and statistics!