When comparing occupational therapy vs physical therapy the main difference is that:
- The goal of OT is to improve the patient’s ability to be independent in performing daily life activities (ADL: Activities of Daily Living)
- The goal of PT is to help the patient improve their body movement.
From this main difference comes another distinction between the two fields:
- OT focuses on fine motor function
- PT focuses on mobility and stability
For example, a Physical Therapist or a Physical Therapist Assistant would spend their time evaluating patients, developing treatment plans, and exercising to restore mobility in the human body.
PT Exercises may be designed to:
- Help the patient get in and out of bed or a car
- Walk or run again
- Squat or jump with increased range of motion
Meanwhile, an Occupational Therapist, or an Occupational Therapy Assistant, would spend their time evaluating patients, defining occupations, and teaching the clients to use adaptive equipment to carry out their occupations.
OT Occupations may include tasks such as:
- Driving with a disability
- Using public transit options
- Walking, using ramps or stairs, etc
So, although the duties sound similar, the roles and goals of each profession are different.
The PT is focused on the body and movement while the OT is focused on the daily living tasks and making sure the client can perform them independently.
Video Explanations from OT vs PT Professionals
Here are some videos of OT and PT professionals explaining the differences within their industries.
These videos point out that the goal in OT is to enable clients to live as independently as possible doing the things (occupations) that they want and need in life.
Meanwhile, PT is focused on mobility, movement, strength, and practicing functional movements the patient needs to work on.
What is Occupational Therapy? OT vs PT
Occupational Therapy vs Physical Therapy: What’s the Difference?
Pediatric OT vs Pediatric PT
This video explains the differences between OT and PT for children.
It points out that OT helps the children with independence in their daily lives including personal hygiene, play activities, and school activities.
Meanwhile, PT focuses on strengthening the children’s muscles, improving mobility, and practicing skills like crawling, sitting, walking, etc.
Occupational vs Physical Therapy in a Pediatric Setting
OT vs PT Takeaways
So, yes, the fields of OT and PT are related.
And sometimes you will even find professionals within the fields working side by side on the same clients.
But there are major differences in what PT professionals and OT professionals do.
Here are the main takeaways:
- OT focuses on helping the client function independently in their daily activities
- PT focuses on restoring mobility in the client’s body movement
- OT works with elderly, disabled, and special needs children most commonly
- PT works with all of the above types of patients but also often times with athletes to help their mobility
Both OT and PT professions are rated to be highly satisfying and rewarding.
Additionally, each field is projected to grow substantially over the next decade according to the BLS.
Meanwhile, salaries are competitive and educational requirements are almost identical.
So, choosing PT vs OT is definitely an important decision to make. But both careers will be very rewarding.
If you work in Occupational Therapy or Physical Therapy, then leave a comment below from your experience and tell us the differences between PT and OT.