Consumer Information

What You Should Know About Occupational Therapy Professionals and Their Services


What is an occupational therapist? What is an occupational therapy assistant?

Occupational therapists are licensed rehabilitation care professionals who work to restore or improve physical abilities, promote behavioral changes, adapt surroundings, and teach new skills; the goal is to have the individual achieve her or his best physical and/or mental functioning in daily life tasks. Occupational therapists provide these services on the referral or prescription of a physician, physician assistant, or other licensed health care professional, for treatment designed to restore function.

Occupational therapy assistants provide treatment according to a plan developed by or in collaboration with a licensed occupational therapist. They must work under the supervision of a licensed occupational therapist or a licensed physician.


When would I use the services of a New York occupational therapist?

Occupational therapy practitioners help people adapt to a variety of challenges:

  • developmental disabilities
  • learning disabilities
  • job-related injuries
  • neurological problems
  • orthopedic injuries
  • birth defects
  • stroke
  • psychosocial disorders
  • chemical dependency
  • age-related disorders

They help with:

  • impaired physical functioning which hampers the ability to perform daily life tasks
  • psychosocial problems which hamper the ability to function in daily life
  • special needs which require modification of the physical environment and/or use of specialized equipment and technologies (e.g., changes in the home or job site for a person in a wheelchair)

What credentials do New York occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants have?

New York licensed occupational therapists have completed a minimum of a bachelor's degree in occupational therapy, including studies in anatomy and physiology, medical and psychosocial conditions, and human development. In addition, they have satisfactorily completed at least six months of supervised experience and have passed a State-approved licensing examination.

New York authorized occupational therapy assistants have completed an associate's degree in occupational therapy, including studies in similar areas with an emphasis on technical application and have passed a State-approved licensing examination; these programs usually require the completion of at least three months of supervised experience.


How do I locate an occupational therapist?

Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings, including private offices, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and schools. They may also provide therapy in your home.

Check with your physician, hospital or school, or ask people you know who have had a successful experience with a particular professional. You can also check under "Occupational Therapists" in the yellow pages of your telephone book. You may also call professional organizations for assistance in identifying member providers. The State Board for Occupational Therapy cannot refer you to a practitioner.


What can I expect to happen during a session with an occupational therapy practitioner?

If an occupational therapy evaluation indicates that occupational therapy is needed, the occupational therapist will design a program of functional activities to improve:

  • strength and endurance
  • balance and coordination
  • functional mobility
  • hand function
  • judgement and problem-solving abilities in daily life
  • activities of daily living and self-care skills

What questions should individuals with disabilities ask about accessing services?

Ask such questions as whether the service location is physically accessible (curb cuts, ramps, restrooms, etc.) as well as whether there is a Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) and parking for people with disabilities.


What records does my occupational therapist retain? Can anyone else get them?

Your file includes a record of your evaluation, treatment plan, and treatment notes. Occupational therapists must keep client records for six years or until the client turns 22, whichever is longer.

Generally, your records are confidential unless you approve their release. Ask your professional about exceptions to this. If you want a copy of your records, provide your occupational therapist with a written request. You may be charged a reasonable fee to offset the cost of providing copies.


Will my health insurance cover occupational therapy services?

It may. Many occupational therapists participate in health care plans. Review your insurance plan's benefits with your insurance provider.


To help your professional relationship with your occupational therapist you should:

  • answer all health-related questions completely and accurately;
  • ask questions to help you understand your evaluation and treatment plan; and
  • express your opinions and personal values to help your occupational therapist develop a program that will meet your needs.

Verifying a New York license:

New York licensed professionals must display a current New York registration certificate; this certificate lists the professional's name, address, and dates of the registration period. Occupational Therapy professionals must reregister every three years to practice in New York. Some professionals also display their original New York license, diploma, licenses from other states, and membership certificates. You may verify an individual's license and registration on this site.

Last Updated: August 16, 2013