The World Federation of Occupational Therapists defines occupational therapy like this:
Occupational therapy is a client-centered health profession concerned with promoting health and well being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement.
That is a mouthful. When I enter a patient’s room and introduce myself I tell them that my job is to make sure a person can do what they need to do to take care of themselves. This includes things like getting dressed, going to the bathroom, getting around the house and community and even doing their job. All of this can be hard after an illness or injury. As an OT practicing in a hospital in acute care- where people go when they are first admitted to the hospital or just had surgery, this is what I do. Occupational therapists also work with adults in nursing homes, out patient clinics and home health. Children receive OT in the home, hospitals, clinics and in school to help them perform to the best of their abilities in their roles. While many occupational therapists work with kids, I have always been partial to the older population. It just suits me better. :)