1. Home
  2. /
  3. Occupational Therapy
  4. /
  5. What is Occupational Therapy?

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy/whakaora ngangahau is a registered health profession:

a client-centred health profession concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy [whakaora ngangahau] is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists [nga kaiwhakaora ngangahau] achieve this by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do; or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational therapy engagement.

World Federation of Occupational Therapy, 2012

Occupational therapy is translated as whakaora ngangahau. Whakaora means to restore to health and ngangahau is an adjective meaning – active, spirited, zealous. In choosing this translation, the Maori Language Commission is conveying the idea of reawakening, or restoring to health one’s activeness, spiritedness and zeal – occupational therapy.

Occupational therapist is kaiwhakaora ngangahau.

The nature of occupation (Molineux, 2010)

  • Occupation is active (mental/cognitive and physical)
  • Occupation is purposeful (to enable the maintenance and development of the body, the mind, cultural and spiritual beliefs)
  • Occupation is meaningful (the value/significance of occupation to that person; is subjective)
  • Occupation is contextualised (in the physical, social or economic environment)
  • Occupation impacts on health (some occupations are positive, some occupations are negative)

What are occupations?

…groups of activities and tasks of everyday life, named, organised, and given value and meaning by individuals and a culture: occupation is everything people do to occupy themselves, including looking after themselves (self care), enjoying life (leisure), and contributing to the social and economic fabric of their communities (productivity); [they are] the domain of concern and therapeutic medium of occupational therapy.

Townsend & Polatajko, 2007, p. 369.

What is occupational science?

Occupational science is the systematic study of the things that people do – their occupations- and includes research at an individual, group or population level. The focus of research might be on the meanings occupations hold, patterns of occupations, or the relationship between occupation and health.

Hocking, 2012, p. 1 – abridged.

Translation expertise: Hohepa MacDougall Kaiwhakamaori / Translator, Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori / Maori Language Commission (2010).