Getting back to the roots of OT – meaningful ‘occupations’ (activities) and connection

Getting back to the roots of OT – meaningful ‘occupations’ (activities) and connection

Occupational therapy plays a crucial role in helping individuals of all ages engage in meaningful activities and improve their overall well-being. Traditional therapy sessions have often been viewed as something to endure rather than enjoy. However, a fresh approach to occupational therapy is emerging, focusing on creating enjoyable experiences, addressing core needs, and catering to diverse populations. This article explores how occupational therapists are shifting their focus to provide therapy that clients genuinely relish, emphasising meaningful occupations over isolated skills, and developing activities that even those without therapy needs desire to attend.

Embracing Meaningful Occupations

Occupational therapy is founded on the concept of “occupations,” which refer to the daily activities that hold significance and purpose in people’s lives. By redirecting therapeutic attention to meaningful occupations, occupational therapists are making therapy sessions more enjoyable for their clients. Instead of isolating specific skills, therapists integrate them into activities that directly impact an individual’s life. For instance, rather than exclusively targeting fine motor skills, a child may engage in art, craft, gardening or construct intricate structures with building blocks, enabling skill development in a purposeful and enjoyable manner.

Targeting Core Needs

Occupational therapists recognise the importance of addressing core needs during therapy sessions. By attending to the fundamental requirements for participation and well-being, therapists provide clients with more holistic and fulfilling therapy experiences. Whether addressing sensory modulation, emotional regulation, or social interaction, therapists understand that working on these core needs in a functional way can significantly enhance an individual’s ability to engage in meaningful occupations. Prioritising core needs ensures that therapy sessions become more meaningful and effective.

Creating an Irresistible Experience

Occupational therapy extends beyond individuals who require therapy; it can also benefit those without specific therapy needs. By designing therapy sessions that are engaging and enjoyable, even individuals without therapy requirements are drawn to attend, transforming the perception of therapy. The key lies in creating activities that are not only therapeutic but also fun and desirable. For example, a therapist might organise an outdoor adventure session where clients partake in nature exploration, sensory games, and crafts inspired by the natural environment. Such activities not only benefit individuals in therapy but also attract others who wish to participate for the sheer enjoyment of the experience.

Childhood Therapy: Play as the Occupation

When it comes to therapy for children, play serves as their primary occupation. Acknowledging this, occupational therapists have embraced play-based interventions to actively engage children in therapy. By incorporating play into therapy sessions, children are more likely to be fully involved, motivated, and enjoy the process. Play-based interventions provide opportunities for children to develop and practise a wide range of skills, including motor coordination, problem-solving, and social interaction. Therapists who incorporate play into their sessions create a positive and enjoyable environment for children, enhancing their overall therapy experience.

Social Skills Therapy in Group Environments

For individuals seeking social skills therapy, group environments offer valuable opportunities for growth and development. Social skills are best learned and practised in the context of social interactions, making group therapy an ideal setting. Within a group, individuals can engage in collaborative activities, participate in role-playing exercises, and work on joint projects, which promote communication and interpersonal skills. Group therapy fosters a sense of community, support, and understanding, creating an environment where individuals feel comfortable and motivated to improve their social skills.


Occupational therapists are redefining therapy experiences by prioritising meaningful occupations, addressing core needs, and creating activities that clients genuinely enjoy. By shifting the focus from isolated skills to holistic engagement, therapy becomes a positive and enriching experience. Incorporating play-based interventions for children and providing social skills therapy in group environments further enhance the effectiveness and enjoyment of therapy. As occupational therapists continue to evolve their approaches, they strive to provide therapy experiences that individuals eagerly anticipate, offering meaningful and enjoyable activities that promote overall well-being.