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Difference Between OT and PT

medicien-health-stethescope-pdOT vs PT

Occupational therapy and physical therapy seem to be the same thing, and people often get confused with their meanings. However, there are some very important factors that make a big difference between the two professions.

Definition:

· OT, or Occupational Therapy, is focused on giving a patient a proper understanding of their abilities, and the way they can manage their health in a better manner. This is a very common therapy for those suffering from a physical injury that is not allowing them to work independently, or normally.

· PT, or Physical Therapy, is focused on giving the patient the actual treatment for the injuries they may have, whether they are impairing their normal life or not. This is more related to the cure of the patient’s injuries.

Technical differences:

· OT will be versed in the deeper aspects of human skills that involve his or her ability to cope with the present situation, and how they can achieve a balance in between. They will also study the home and emotional environment, and give their support in these fields.

· PT will focus on the injury, and on trying to prevent further injuries. The therapist is required to have a vast knowledge of the anatomy and musculoskeletal system of the body to be able to do his job properly.

Working Environment:

· An Occupational Therapist works basically with rehabilitation centers, with individuals who have permanent disabilities, and those who need counseling on a regular basis. They normally work with very sophisticated equipment, and can assist with giving the patient the necessary manpower to make sure they are being taken care of properly.

· Physical Therapists work with hospitals and clinics that receive patients with injuries due to accidents, and the most common of these are related to the neck and spinal cord. They are working on helping to speed up the treatment process, to give the patient fast relief.

Even though OT and PT require similar training, the key difference is that OT needs more training in oral and hand skill interventions, while PT needs more postural and gross motor development training. In order to start practicing either of them, the therapist should have received a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in their respective fields.

Additionally, it is often seen that OT also helps a patient overcome his injuries in some way or another, and that PT is trying to help a patient understand the reasons behind the injury, and how to deal with them through means of education. There are cases where both OT and PT work together to help a patient with severe trauma conditions.

Summary:

1. OT is designed as a tool to help those that need counseling on how to look after themselves.

2. PT is designed as a tool to help the injuries heal faster.

3. OT is practiced in rehabilitation centers, and PT is done in hospitals and clinics.

4. Although both are different, they can complement each other at times.


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18 Comments

  1. While I am sure this author attempted to do adequate research, much of this is inaccurate. I have been an OT for 16 years and have worked closely with PT’s, and can comment directly from experience.

    1) We do not work “basically” in rehabilitation centers. We do work in that setting, but we will also be found working in acute care (hospitals), sub-acute care, outpatient clinics, home health, school systems, and nursing homes.

    2) OT’s also work directly with injuries, many specialize in orthopedic injuries to the hand, arm and shoulder. OT’s rehabilitate the injury with healing modalities (ultrasound, for example), strengthening, and pt education. PT’s focus is usually the neck, spine, hips and lower extremities. PT’s main concern in ambulation, stairs, ability to move in bed, transfers, etc., in addition to healing the injury (hip replacement, for example), itself. OT also looks at these areas and how diminished ability to perform any of these affects their independence.

    3) The key difference in the training is not in oral and hand skill interventions, which I don’t remember having much education about. Rather the main difference is OT’s learn how to look at a person’s limitations and help them adapt to their job and/or activities that are both essential (bathing, dressing, cooking, etc) and meaningful (gardening, playing cards, spending time with grandchildren, etc). OT’s are trained in modifiying both the physical environment (simple home modification based on person’s condition) and in using adaptive equipment to allow for more independent completion of daily tasks.

    The stated technical differences were accurate, however OT”s are just as versed in anatomy and body systems. Both OT’s and PT’s educate the patient, families and caregivers. Both PT’s and OT’s help the pt achieve improved balance, strength and endurance.

    There really are quite a few “grey” areas and much overlapping in what PT/OT is capable of doing. The type of facility usually dictates specifics (some outpatient facilities allow PT’s to rehabilitate shoulder injuries, other facilities allow OT’s to treat shoulders).

    While I appreciate the attempt to help people understand the difference between these therapies, I feel a bit more research could have been completed. As the number of seniors continues to rise, more people will need a clear understanding of OT and PT as these services will become widely and regularly used.

    I would hope other therapists comment here. My comment is from an OT perspecitve, so a PT perspective would be great.

    • I completely agree with you! I am an OT student, graduating in April 2010 with my Master’s. I was doing some research for a bulletin board project I am making for my Fieldwork Affiliation on the difference between PT and OT (it is an outpt orthopedic clinic, and frequently our pts refer to us as PTs…and we always try to nicely correct them and educate them about the difference between the two and what OT is). I was so surprised how completely wrong this website was! I was going to write something, but you said it all! :) THANK YOU for standing up for OT and setting it straight for the future readers of this website!!!

  2. I am a prospective PT student so I have been researching the difference and one thing I noticed about the difference is that OT’s seem more insecure about their jobs than OT’s. We get paid more, bitches!!

    • That is pretty sad to hear, I am sure you will struggle to find a job in any career with that attitude.

    • You might want to re-think your position on that. I am a very well compensated OT, earning almost 25% more than my PT co-workers per visit. I receive calls almost daily seeking my services, so to say that I am insecure about my job is completely inaccurate and demonstrates your overall lack of intelligence in this particular area.
      Also, it is very sad to see someone with such a poor attitude and general lack of manners potentially thinking of becoming a PT. I hope whatever program you interview with will see your true colors prior to admission. I know, I would never want someone with your attitute seeing my patients.

    • Ben, I feel sorry for your parents, they must be so embarrassed. Clearly you have a lot to learn. Good luck finding a job as a helping professional.

  3. Ben, you need to grow up a little. Anyone who can call someone a bitch who just wants to help others doesn’t need to be in healthcare at all. You need to pick a new field.

  4. Ben, thank you for reminding me why I chose OT as my profession.

    Also, I wasn’t aware that being a “prospective” PT student was so lucrative. “We get paid more”… I think you mean “They get paid more.” You haven’t gotten accepted to an accredited PT program yet buddy. And judging by your attitude, I’d say you probably won’t.

  5. I am an OT AND a PT. This article is very inaccurate as to what both professions do!!! I would reference something else if I wanted an accurate description of each. To merely say OT’s help people to “understand” disorders is ignorant. They treat many of the same impairments, just with more emphasis on meaningful and functional tasks. PT’s are a little more capable of working in only the settings/ways possible. It is sad to know this level of ignorance still exists when so much info is available to better understand each profession. And as to the errogant mentally disabled individual that started discussing money, I get 3-4x more demands for my services as an OT vs. PT due to the fact that there are so little of us OT’s out there. When I go to job fairs, vendor seminars, and confercences, there are way more companies offering me OT positions than PT because there are less of us and more of a need in many areas. Hows that for job security?? Basically, you can negotiate your own worth. PT’s have a national avg of ~2-3K greater salary, but from personal experience this has nothing to do with services offered or “the better job”; I just believe that it’s because we OT’s are a little more passive with our salary negotiations and we PT’s tend to be a little more aggressive in our negotiations. In summary, writers of articles such as this should at least have some sort of knowledge about what they are discussing.

    • Dual professional

      Currently I’m in the middle of deciding weather I wanna be an OT or PT, and for a moment I thought of doing both, but thought it was way too crazy. how did you where able to do it? Was it too tough? what will you reccommend?

    • Dual Profession- I am also curious as to how you were able to do both. I am currently an OT and interested in broadening my horizons…did you take them back to back or are there accelerated programs for those that are already practicing?

  6. As a PT student I chose PT over OT because what I found in research there was the ability to specialize in areas such as nuero, peds, and after talking to different therapists I felt it had more autonomy and range. This may also be a factor of the state I have been in. As i know in some states PAs are preferred over a NPs or vice versa. From a summer camp for kids with a range of disabilities I have seen that OT’s and PT’s work very closely together. The biggest difference and a major point this article missed is that the PT degree is now a three year DPT rather than a master’s/bachelor’s for entry level PT’s.

  7. I’m a incoming OT student. Please give me some advice on how will I thrive in this profession. :) I want to be one of you guys, to be a successful OT.

  8. I am really debating on becoming an OT or PT. Is it harder to get into PT school? I don’t really care about the pay its not the most important thing but what is the main difference in the two fields.

  9. Here’s some more to add to the differences – PT school is far more difficult to get into, the PT profession has produced far more research, the PT profession is rapidly progressive in the past 10 years. OT wants to cling on to PT’s due to the arbitrary link (i.e. “we’re both therapists”) in terms of potential future medicare beneficiary direct access to “therapy.” See the OT associations position regarding direct access. They sit idly by while the PT profession does all the work, then when they have their input it’s “any changes made to direct access should include OT.” What a joke. The rehabilitation experts are PT’s, not OT’s.

    • Donald, I take it you’re not an OT or PT. And if you are, you seem far from being involved. Please begin by gaining an accurate understanding of what certain professions do and what they have produced in the past before offering your “information.”

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