Occupational therapy began as a profession in the United States in 1917 with basis in the belief that everyday purposeful activity contains curative properties. Since its inception, occupational therapy has had a prominent role in the treatment of epidemics, mental illness and with children with disabilities. With changes in medicine and societal influences, OT continued to develop a larger role in the treatment of physical dysfunction.
Currently, the OT practice includes areas across the lifespan - from neonates to geriatrics, and psychosocial and physical dysfunction. Services may consist of comprehensive evaluations of the client’s home and other environments (e.g., workplace, school), recommendations for adaptive equipment and training in its use, and guidance and education for family members and caregivers.
Initially, registered occupational therapists (OTR) held a bachelor of science degree. In 2007, all OTRs entering practice were required to hold a master's degree. A two-year certification program for the occupational therapy assistant (OTA) is offered at the community college level.
Employment opportunities are found in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, outpatient facilities, mental health programs, private practice, long-term care facilities, home health agencies, industry and school settings.