Research Article
Issue Date: April 1997
Published Online: April 01, 1997
Updated: April 30, 2020
Occupational Therapy Practice: Focusing on Occupational Performance
Author Affiliations
  • Carolyn M. Baum, PhD, OTR/C, FAOTA, is Elias Michael Director and Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy and Neurology, Program in Occupational Therapy, Washington University School of Medicine, 4444 Forest Park, Box 8505, St. Louis, Missouri 63108
  • Mary Law, PhD, OT(C), is Associate Professor, School of Rehabilitation Science, and Director, Neurodevelopmental Clinical Research Unit, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Article Information
Health and Wellness / Research
Research Article   |   April 01, 1997
Occupational Therapy Practice: Focusing on Occupational Performance
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, April 1997, Vol. 51, 277-288.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, April 1997, Vol. 51, 277-288.
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Changes in the health system require occupational therapy practitioners to focus their concerns on the long-term health needs of people and to help them develop healthy behaviors not only to improve their health, but also to minimize the health care costs associated with dysfunction. Occupational therapy practitioners must initiate efforts in the community to integrate a range of services that promote, protect, and improve the health of the public. This article shares the experiences of Canadian occupational therapy practitioners, who were challenged by their government nearly 15 years ago to establish a system that demonstrates effectiveness by improving the health of occupational therapy clients.

By focusing on occupational performance, occupational therapy practitioners assist clients in becoming actively engaged in their life activities. This requires client-centered and family-centered practice and services that span from the agency or institution to the community. Occupational therapy practitioners must work collaboratively with persons in the client’s environment (e.g., family members, teachers, independent living specialists, employers, neighbors, friends) to assist the client in obtaining skills and to make modifications to remove barriers that create a social disadvantage. A focus on occupational performance requires occupational therapy personnel to reframe how we think about occupational therapy to a sociomedical context and to take an active role in building healthy communities.