What is the Difference Between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy?

What is the Difference Between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy?  Helping people heal and live more fully is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your time. Making a career out of caring is more than a job, it is a truly gratifying lifelong purpose. However, the choices available for career opportunities in care are vast and varied. Do you know the difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy? Both do vital hands-on rehabilitative work to help patients with injuries or disabilities that limit how they’re able to move and function in daily life. However, the unique details between the two can make a huge difference in which field you want to specialize in.

Physical therapy works primarily with people recovering from injuries or illnesses and the goal is to get patients back in motion with exercises, massage, and other techniques. Treatment usually happens in a physical therapy facility or office. Physical therapy often focuses on preventing injuries, and it can help people avoid surgery or a long-term reliance on medications.[1]

Occupational therapy helps patients perform day-to-day tasks, in an effort to maintain an independent life. Whether they’re recovering from injuries or have developmental or cognitive disabilities affecting their motor skills, emotions or behavior, they may need assistance finding the best way to do everyday activities to ultimately live more independently.[2]  Some occupational therapy intervention plans might happen in a hospital or occupational therapy facility or office, but some therapy may occur in a patient’s home or work environment. In occupational therapy, there’s a strong emphasis on the practical aspects of helping people do the things they want and need to do so they can live life to the fullest.

To learn more about physical therapy or occupational therapy, please visit: www.bls.gov, www.apta.org, and www.aota.org.

Learn more about Stanbridge University’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program or Physical Therapist Assistant program and apply to start your path towards a career helping patients in rehabilitation.




[1] American Physical Therapy Association, Who Are Physical Therapists?, on the Internet at http://www.apta.org/AboutPTs/ (visited on October 25, 2017).

[2] The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc., What is Occupational Therapy, on the Internet at https://www.aota.org/Conference-Events/OTMonth/what-is-OT.aspx (visited on October 25, 2017).