The Malta Independent 5 March 2024, Tuesday
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Occupational therapists have the opportunity to empower people to change their life for the better

Sunday, 5 November 2023, 09:49 Last update: about 5 months ago

Martina Brincat

Occupational therapy is a relatively new profession originating in the early 1900s. It originated from the arts and crafts movement in mental health institutions. Throughout the years and especially during World War II, this ideology shifted to the use of activities of daily living as the main intervention form for several conditions. The profession is still developing in Malta, and due to the broad range of treatment forms available, Occupational therapy can easily seep in novel settings.

Occupational therapists are health-care professionals who help empower individuals to achieve their maximal independence in daily life activities. On a daily basis, we all engage in activities that are important and meaningful for us. For a child, this might be play or performing well at school. Adults need to work to provide for their family and take care of their house. A person of advanced age desires to enjoy their retirement and spend more time with their grandchildren. Even simply waking up from bed in the morning and showering is necessary to participate in these meaningful tasks. In our dictionary, all of these activities are called "occupations". Unfortunately, due to an injury, disease or developmental delay, people might need assistance to participate or re-engage in these occupations. That is where Occupational Therapy comes through.

To practice occupational therapy, one needs to graduate with a BSc (Hons) in Occupational Therapy. This course is available at the University of Malta over a period of four years. Entry requirements include an A-level in Biology with Grade C or better. Students are trained to identify the pre-requisite components essential to carry out tasks which may include motor, cognitive, psychological and sensory skills apart from others. They are also taught how to retrain any impairments in order to allow occupational performance. Occupational therapists are also trained to observe the environment and how it impacts performance in occupations. The interaction between the person, environment and occupation is considered as the main model of practice in the profession. Occupational therapists use a holistic and client-centred approach, therefore goals of intervention are set with individuals focussing on what motivates them.

As mentioned, every individual engages in a variety of occupations in order to fulfil different roles. Occupational therapists work with people of all ages from neonatal to end-of-life care. One can find occupational therapists in acute, oncology and rehabilitation hospitals, mental health institutions, residential homes and long-term care facilities, employment settings, schools and outpatient services. A person requiring Occupational Therapy services needs to follow the referral criteria of the particular setting.

Following the referral, occupational therapists conduct an assessment to establish what is limiting performance in occupations. Together with the client, goals are set to guide intervention. The main types of intervention include:

  • Aiding children to participate in school and play activities
  • Enabling the use of assistive technology including adaptive equipment, environment modifications, memory aids and certain computer software which facilitate participation
  • Inpatient and rehabilitation care after a physical or neurological injury
  • Acute and community care in mental health settings
  • Seating and wheelchair assessments
  • Driving assessments and modifications as necessary
  • Vocational training
  • Client and relative education
  • Active-ageing care with elder persons and dementia
  • End-of-life and palliative care

To finalise, occupational therapy is the only profession which is able to consider all of the client factors including the environment and their lifestyle when planning intervention. Throughout their career, occupational therapists have the opportunity to empower people to change their life for the better by engaging in activities that are meaningful and important for their life roles. This will in turn improve their overall quality of life. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most satisfying jobs in health care.


Malta Association of Occupational Therapists is a founder member of the Malta Health Network. For more information visit

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