Occupational Therapy at ZwavelStream Clinic - zwavelstream.co.za
Social Work at ZwavelStream
January 23, 2018
Social Work at ZwavelStream
January 23, 2018

Occupational Therapy at ZwavelStream


Occupational Therapy is a division of health care that aims to promote the well-being of patients through activities, otherwise referred to as occupations.

This kind of structured intervention enables patients to maintain or recover the ability to do things they want, need, or would be expected to do in order to lead a satisfying and fulfilling life. In its early developmental stages, activities like arts and crafts, and work processes were used to merely distract patients from their illnesses.

Doctors soon realized the positive effect these activities were having on the overall healing process, and thus Occupational Therapy was established. It makes use of three core components in the treatment of patients – Assessment, Intervention, and Outcomes. This kind of therapy is applied across the board in several sectors. With regard to mental health, Occupational Therapy focuses on the prevention and treatment of mental illness.

Some conditions where Occupational Therapy is used include schizophrenia, depressive disorders, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and drug abuse, to name a few.

What does an Occupational Therapist do?

An Occupational Therapist (OT) is a medical professional who uses a variety of activities to help people maintain or learn the skills they need in order to live a productive and satisfying life.

Areas of focus may include:

  • Self-care | Personal hygiene, getting dressed, eating, moving around
  • Leisure | Gardening, social activities, sports, exercise
  • Productivity | Contributing to the community, coping at work or at school

The application of specialised knowledge and skills ensures the right course of action is followed, whether this be preventative or corrective. OTs are trained to look at the patient from not only a physical aspect, but to also consider the psychological, emotional, and psychosocial implications that may affect overall health and function in everyday life.

They firstly assess the patient to determine their condition, then an intervention is tailored to suit the particular needs of the individual and best bring about the desired outcomes – which is someone who is productive in daily life, independent, and contributes to the community.

Who are the Occupational Therapist’s patients?

An OT works with a wide range of people of different ages and backgrounds for a variety of reasons. The basis of their work is to help people who are physically, developmentally, socially, mentally, or emotionally impaired when it comes to performing everyday tasks required in life. An OT’s patient is one with a disability, an injury, or mental illness.

Therapy focuses on restoring the independence of an individual so they can, as far as possible, achieve a sense of autonomy, be productive in work or school and contribute to the wider community. For children with disabilities like cerebral palsy and autism, the Occupational Therapist will develop interventions that help them to function in a school setting, give them independence with regard to self-care, and tools to engage in social situations. In adults, support from an OT is usually required when dealing with cognitive or physical changes that impact their day-to- day living.

This can be for reasons associated with mental illness or physical injury. Because an OT regards the patient as a whole – and not just from a physical or medical point of view – treatment promotes the patient’s overall health and wellness, including the emotional and psychological aspects as well.

What treatments do they use?

Therapy is considered holistic in that it focuses on the physical, mental, and emotional components of a person’s recovery. The Occupational Therapist treats every patient individually, and develops a treatment plan that takes every aspect into consideration. Since independence is at the core of Occupational Therapy, all treatments seek to assist the patient to maintain or learn the ability to sustain themselves in ways that promote health and prevent injury.

These include basic things like lessons on personal hygiene, feeding, and getting dressed. Particular attention is also given to activities that will help them cope in school or at work, and also as a participating member of the community. In cases of permanent disability, the OT will help the patient learn new ways to compensate for the loss of function, often modifying the environment and activities so that patients can have some independence.

The Occupational Therapist will often design and craft specialized equipment where required, like standing frames and seating. The idea behind this is to address and overcome any physical constraints a patient might have, so that the mental and emotional aspects of their wellbeing can have room to recover.


Occupational Therapists are highly trained individuals with specialized skills. After completing their university degree, graduates are required to do a period of fieldwork training. Possible places for this fieldwork to occur include hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers, and clinics. Here they are exposed to a wide range of people with different needs, and are taught best - practice methods regarding assessment as well as intervention planning and implementation.

This period of training is supervised by an experienced OT and is only deemed complete once the graduate has met all the requirements set out by the national standard. Once they finish their training, an Occupational Therapist is not only qualified, but has immense experience in dealing with all kinds of people.

How do they work together with the Clinic?

Occupational Therapy is one of our main treatment approaches at ZwavelStream Clinic, and Occupational Therapists form part of our core multi-disciplinary team that supports patients for the duration of their journey to wellness.

As mental health specialists, they are tasked with the responsibility of enabling patients to maintain, restore, or learn the skills required in order to live a life that is productive and fulfilling. They work closely with the Psychiatrists on call to help patients understand the impact their illness has on various aspects of their lives, and then provide coping mechanisms for daily living. These include things like time management, homemaking, using public transport, budgeting, as well as some of the more basic self-care needs mentioned previously.

The Occupational Therapist is able to work with a patient in an individual or group therapy setting, and works closely with the other medical professionals at the clinic to ensure a holistic approach is achieved for best outcomes.


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