Posted on Thursday, June 3rd, 2021 at 10:06 am
Most workers, after their surgeries and doctor visits, need to treat with different types of therapists. Some of the types of therapists you may need to treat with are physical therapists, rehabilitation therapists, and occupational therapists. The term “occupational therapy” can be a little confusing. Occupational therapy doesn’t mean that the therapists focus on helping you perform your job tasks. Occupation is used more broadly – in the sense of what tasks “occupy” your time. Occupational therapists help people, even children, perform their daily activities.
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, occupational therapy “practitioners enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and prevent—or live better with—injury, illness, or disability.” Occupational therapists help children participate in school activities. Occupational therapists help older adults adjust to physical changes and cognitive changes.
The broad objectives of occupational therapy are:
“Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment and/or task to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team. It is an evidence-based practice deeply rooted in science.”
Medical News today offers more insight into the role of occupational therapists. Occupational therapy helps people with work, school, hobbies, social interactions, and household responsibilities. Often, your family physician or a treating specialist will recommend that you work with an occupational therapist. In North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation cases, the doctor you pick from the employer’s list of physicians may recommend that you see an occupational therapist.
Occupational therapists help you adapt to the environment around you. Specific examples of occupational therapy include:
Nearly half of the occupational therapists in America work in hospitals or with specialists. Others work with various health services. Some work in nursing homes and schools. Occupational therapists need to obtain a license to practice. Many occupational therapists have a master’s degree in occupational therapy.
The occupational therapist (OT) will start by reviewing your medical history. They’ll ask you questions about your daily living tasks and your daily work tasks. They may ask you to try to perform some of these tasks to see what you can and can’t do. Some OTs may even go to your workplace “to see whether they can spot any ways to improve them.”.
Once the goals have been set, the OT will work to determine what practical solutions, other than physical therapy, can help. Simple suggestions may include adding handrails or labeling items if the person has any loss of cognitive function. The OT may recommend assistive devices such as a wheelchair or computer aids. The OT will then work with you to help you learn how to use those assistive devices.
After regular intervals, such as every two weeks or every month, the OT will monitor your improvement. Part of the monitoring will include your responses to the OT’s questions.
Many people confuse occupational therapy and physical therapy. While both health services aim to improve a worker’s health so he/she can return to work, there are differences.
Occupational therapists focus on your ability to do the tasks you need to do in your everyday life. Physical therapists mostly focus on improving your movement. Physical therapists regularly:
Often, part of physical therapy is to build up your muscles around the injured area so the muscles can do some of the work the injured area normally does.
Physical therapists (PTs) also create their own personalized plans for injured workers. The plans generally complement the OT’s plan. PT plans include:
Occupational therapists generally focus on practical solutions such as assistive equipment or methods for helping the injured worker perform daily tasks. Physical therapists focus on exercise routines to help your body heal from and adjust to your injuries.
How does occupational therapy differ from vocational rehabilitation?
According to Vocational Training HQ, vocational rehabilitation helps people with a disability (such as a temporary disability due to a workplace injury) return to work.
That’s the official line, but in reality, vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRC’s) typically will not be communicating with your doctors, or assist you with any type of job that you would be interested in.
First, unlike the occupational therapist, who is someone that you are referred to by your authorized treating physician, a vocational rehabilitation counselor is someone who is handpicked and hired directly by the workers compensation insurance company. As such, they need to be viewed as agents of the insurance company. In other words, the primary interest of the VRC will be to satisfy the needs and desires of the insurance company. The VRC is NOT working on your behalf. This is a very important distinction to keep in mind.
The job of the vocational rehabilitation counselor is generally two-fold:
Occasionally, vocational rehabilitation counselors may provide career counseling advice such as explaining your employment options if your injuries don’t fully heal and assisting your with updating your resume’; however, in most cases, at her core, the vocational rehab counselor is an agent of the workers compensation insurance company, hired to attempt to reduce the value of your claim and ongoing benefits and/or bait you into noncompliance and then get you cut off of benefits.
This is very different from an occupational therapist, who is usually another one of your health care providers, who is assisting you in recovery from your injuries.
At Joe Miller Law, we’ve helped thousands of injured and ill workers obtain just recoveries for their medical expenses and their legal share of lost wages. We achieve these goals by working with your physicians, therapists, and other health care providers. When necessary, we work with independent medical providers to help ensure the employer doctors are helping you as much as you need. We’ve helped these workers through all types of injuries and all types of recovery plans.
We fight to ensure the employer’s doctors don’t force you back to work before you’re ready. In some cases, your health providers will report that you can return to work – with work restrictions. To discuss all aspects of your workers’ compensation claim including occupational therapy, call lawyer Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295. or complete my online contact form to schedule an appointment.
Employees in North Carolina and Virginia can also use our New Electronic Case Review.