Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between an occupational therapist and an occupational therapist assistant or support personnel worker?
Occupational therapists are autonomous health professionals who are university trained and who complete a minimum of 1000 hours of supervised fieldwork experience (on-the-job training). In certain provinces they are required to pass a national certification examination before they are eligible to practice. Occupational therapists are accountable to a provincial regulatory body, which has the responsibility of governing the practice of occupational therapy in that jurisdiction. The occupational therapist has the ultimate responsibility for occupational therapy service which includes direct client care (assessment and intervention), education, research, administration and consultation.
Occupational therapy assistants provide client care and treatment under the supervision of an occupational therapist. They may have a college diploma or have on-the-job training. As support personnel they are knowledgeable in the field of occupational therapy and are involved in the provision of occupational therapy services in self-care, work and leisure occupations. Their roles, just as OT roles, can vary tremendously depending on the setting. The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, in its Guidelines for Supervision of Support Personnel recommend occupational therapy service components that should not be assigned to support personnel. These are the same as outlined in the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario Practice Guidelines (1996) and include interpretation of referrals, initial interviews, interpretation of assessment findings, intervention planning (including goal identification), interventions which require continuous clinical judgment to closely monitor and guide client progress, modification of intervention beyond limits established by the supervising occupational therapist and discharge decisions.