• Chris Moore, OTR

What is Occupational Therapy and when did it Begin?


In the 1700’s, the age of Enlightenment was born. OT emerged to help with the mentally ill. At that time, this population was considered a danger to society.


In the 1800’s, arts and crafts were used in American hospitals to promote relaxation and feelings of being productive. William Rush Dunton Jr. known as “the father of occupational therapy”, was a strong advocate for occupational engagement and eventually formed the National Society for Promotion of Occupational Therapy (now known as AOTA (American Occupational Therapy Association).


In the 1900’s, a nurse, Susan Tracy, brought back the use of “occupation” with the mentally ill. She coined the term “Occupational Nurse.” In 1914, “Occupation Work” transformed into Occupational Therapy. In 1915, Eleanor Clark Slagle organized the first educational program for OTs. She was known as the mother of Occupational Therapy.


During WW I, OT was called upon to develop programs and treatment for injured soldiers. The treatment consisted of arts and crafts, ADLs (activities of daily living and IADLs (instrumental activities of daily living). There were many soldiers needing activities to assist them to resume their daily living roles. During 1940-1960, “The Rehabilitative Movement” branched into OT providing therapy for physical disabilities and pediatrics. In 1965, Medicare began to cover inpatient OT and later included outpatient. Eventually, other insurance carriers followed.

In 1980-1990, Occupational Therapy focused on quality of life. This hold true even today.

Occupational Therapy is an ever-evolving profession that has grown to become an essential and important part of the healthcare field. OTs provide therapy for a variety of populations including, newborns, children, adults with mental or physical needs, workers, home safety evaluations, equine therapy and assessing the need for adaptive equipment.


OT values the individual, believing each person has the capacity to act on his/her behalf to achieve a better state of health through occupation. Whatever stage of life you’re in or how you spend your day, is considered your occupation. The Occupational therapist provides treatment to help you to reach your goals.

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