Understanding Occupational Therapy: Rehabilitation, Disease Management and More
4 January 2022
Occupational therapy aims to support the overall wellbeing of people by tending to their physical, emotional and social needs, empowering them to live independently. This treatment can benefit people of all ages who struggle performing any daily activities. Understand the purposes and formats of occupational therapy, and find your options and costs in Hong Kong in this article.
What is occupational therapy?
Occupational therapy is a type of treatment that designs and uses different therapeutic activities to increase independent functions in self-care, work and leisure, with a goal to enhance the potential and life quality of individuals.
Occupational therapy is suitable for people of all ages, particularly those with injuries, illnesses or disabilities. It is a health and social care profession, yet a practice deeply rooted in science.
Who needs occupational therapy?
Generally speaking, people having difficulties because of intellectual disability, developmental delay, physical disability, injury or illness and psychological or emotional problems may need occupational therapy, for example:
- Alzheimer's disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Decreased judgment and problem-solving skills in daily living
- Memory deficit
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson's disease
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress
- Spinal cord injuries
Ask your doctor and see if occupational therapy is suitable for you.
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Regulation on occupational therapists in Hong Kong
Occupational therapists in Hong Kong are regulated and licensed under the Supplementary Medical Professions Council and the Occupational Therapists Board. According to the Supplementary Medical Professions Ordinance, to register as an occupational therapist in Hong Kong, one must be: a holder of Bachelor of Science Degree or Professional Diploma in Occupational Therapy at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, or a holder of other qualifications approved by the Board.
Currently, there are around 2,700 registered occupational therapists in Hong Kong and the majority is serving the public sector. Nevertheless, the Legislative Council Panel on Health Service projects rising demand for the profession in both the medical and welfare sectors, seeing a widening “manpower gap” through 2030 and 2040.
What should I expect during occupational therapy?
An occupational therapy treatment usually begins with an individualized evaluation, during which the patient and their family work together with the occupational therapist to determine the treatment objectives.
In the follow-up visits, the occupational therapist will use different treatment techniques and perform customized interventions to achieve the treatment goals. Patients will also learn self-help strategies to become more independent in daily tasks. A complete therapy usually takes around 6-8 visits.
Common treatment modalities of occupational therapy
- Sensory integration
- Pressure therapy
- Reminiscence therapy
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Social skills training
- Sensory perception training
- Simulated work training
- Home modification
- Adaptive device prescription
At the final visit, the outcome will be evaluated based on the initial objectives to determine or design future intervention plans if needed.
Occupational therapy vs. physiotherapy: What’s the difference?
Some may confuse occupational therapy with physiotherapy (Physical Therapy) as they both aim to improve the patient’s overall functioning and quality of life. But there are some significant differences between the two:
|- Focuses on fine motor skills (movements of the small muscles of the body) |
- Treats the whole person, not just a single perspective
- Aims to support the wellbeing in every aspect of life
|- Focuses on gross motor skills (movements of the large muscles of the body) |
- Treats patient’s actual impairment from a biomechanical perspective
- Aims to rehabilitate injury
Costs and options in Hong Kong
Occupational therapy in the public sector
You cannot reach occupational therapists in the public sector directly, unless with the referral of a doctor.
However, the Chief Executive Carrie Lam has proposed a legislation amendment to allow patients access occupational therapists without doctors’ referral in her 2021 Policy Address, in a bid to avoid delay of treatments.
Occupational therapy in the private sector
You can find the list of private occupational therapy practitioners published by the Hong Kong Occupational Therapy Association here. Consultation or treatment fees for each session fall in the range of HK$300–HK$2,000. Beware of the different major scopes of services the practitioners provide.
Does health insurance cover occupational therapy in Hong Kong?
Occupational therapy is usually not covered by health insurance. When it is covered, it’s usually under high-end medical plans and subject to a sub-limit and/or pre-authorization by the insurer. Most often occupational therapy is covered under outpatient benefits following an accident or sudden illness. In rare instances, it may cover services for children diagnosed with developmental delay. Contact an Alea advisor to learn more.
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What exactly does an occupational therapist do?
Occupational therapists help people at all ages who have difficulties because of intellectual disability, developmental delay, physical disability, injury or illness and psychological or emotional problems.
They employ professional treatment techniques and customized intervention to facilitate the rehabilitation of patients.
What are the major scopes of services provided by occupational therapists in Hong Kong?
- Medicine and Geriatrics
- Work rehabilitation
- Primary Health Care
- Psychiatric Rehabilitation
- Community outreach service
Where can I find an occupational therapist?
Occupational therapists practice in both the public and the private sectors. However, note that doctor referral is required to receive occupational therapy in the public setting. You may find the list of private occupational therapists from the Hong Kong Occupational Therapy Association.
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This article was independently written by Alea and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should never be relied upon for specific advice.