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Exploring Therapy Careers

Mary Free Bed therapist with patient► Physical therapist (PTs)
► Physical therapist assistants (PTAs)
► Occupational therapists (OTs)
► Certified occupational therapist assistants (COTAs)
► Speech-language pathologists (SLPs)
► Recreational therapists (CTRS)
► Social workers

Physical therapists (PTs) provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease. They restore, maintain, and promote overall fitness and health. Patients include accident victims and individuals with disabling conditions such as low-back pain, arthritis, heart disease, fractures, head injuries, and cerebral palsy. [top]

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) perform a variety of tasks. Components of treatment procedures performed, under the direction and supervision of physical therapists, involve exercises, massages, electrical stimulation, paraffin baths, hot and cold packs, traction, and ultrasound. Physical therapist assistants record the patient’s responses to treatment and report the outcome of each treatment to the physical therapist.

For career information and a list of schools offering accredited programs, visit:
American Physical Therapy Association

Occupational therapists (OTs) help people improve their ability to perform tasks in their daily living and working environments. They work with individuals who have conditions that are mentally, physically, developmentally, or emotionally disabling. They also help them to develop, recover, or maintain daily living and work skills. Occupational therapists help clients not only improve their basic motor functions and reasoning abilities, but also compensate for permanent loss of function. Their goal is to help clients have independent, productive, and satisfying lives. [top]

Occupational therapist assistants (COTAs) help clients with rehabilitative activities and exercises outlined in treatment plans developed in collaboration with an occupational therapist. Activities range from teaching the proper method of moving from a bed into a wheelchair to the best way to stretch and limber the muscles of the hand. Assistants monitor an individual’s activities to make sure that they are performed correctly and to provide encouragement. They also record their client’s progress for the occupational therapist. If the treatment is not having the intended effect, or the client is not improving as expected, the therapist may alter the treatment program. In addition, occupational therapist assistants document the billing of the client’s health insurance provider.

For career information and a list of accredited programs visit:
American Occupational Therapy Association

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) assess, diagnose, treat, and help prevent speech, language, cognitive-communication, voice, swallowing, fluency, and other related disorders.

For career information and a list of accredited programs, visit:
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Recreational therapists (CTRS's), also known as therapeutic recreation specialists, provide treatment services and recreation activities to individuals with disabilities or illnesses. Using a variety of techniques – including arts and crafts, animals, sports, games, dance and movement, drama, music, and community outings – therapists treat and maintain the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of their clients.

For career information and a list of accredited programs, visit:
American Therapeutic Recreation Association

Social workers help their clients function the best they can in their environment, deal with relationships, and solve personal and family problems. Social work is a profession for those with a strong desire to help improve people's lives.

For career information and a list of accredited programs, visit: National Association of Social Workers

Information excerpted from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition.

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