Rehabilitative Therapies: Physical, Occupational, and Speech
by Rebecca Patton
When many people hear the word "therapy," they think of something that has caused a problem and has to be fixed. In most cases, that is true. Most people think the problem may be an injury that has to be rehabilitated or an extreme mental problem where the person needs serious help. However, therapy does not always deal with injured or mentally troubled people. Three types of therapy that help a wide range of people with their problems are physical, occupational, and speech therapies.
Physical therapy is the one that deals mostly with injuries and their rehabilitation. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, "Physical therapists provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease" (205). Disabling conditions such as lower-back pain, cerebral palsy, arthritis, heart disease, and fractures, as well as physical injuries, are among the cases physical therapists often evaluate and treat. This therapy often includes strength-building exercises. Therapists in this field work on the person's flexibility, endurance, strength, balance, and coordination. Most therapy is done in specializing clinics or hospitals by a licensed physical therapist who has a bachelor's degree ("Physical").
Physical therapy is a fairly new practice of rehabilitation. The treatments were not widely practiced until after World War I when soldiers returned home with injuries that were able to be rehabilitated by this therapy. The profession immediately began to grow and has been popular in the U. S. since that time. The vocation is also expected to continue growing for several more years. But physical therapy is not the only type of therapy that involves the rehabilitation of injuries (The Princeton Review).
The other type of therapy that may deal some with injuries is occupational therapy. Enhancing fine motor skills is the focus of this therapy. Occupational therapists set a goal for their patients which enables them to have more "independent, productive, and satisfying lives" by teaching them how to perform daily functions without the aid of others. Some of these functions may include eating, getting dressed, or using the bathroom. Exercises that improve balance, coordination, trunk control, dexterity, and basic muscle movement are used towards a person's road to an easier lifestyle. Occupational therapists work mainly with people who have disabilities. These may include people with spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or people who have had a stroke ("Occupational").
Occupational therapy is my current major of study, so I am doing volunteer work for several therapists right now at Parent-Child Services in West Knoxville. It is very interesting to sit and observe each session. I am presently observing a four-year-old victim of near drowning who was thought to be dead, but was brought back to life. His focus is on balance and coordination right now. I am also observing a child with cerebral palsy. He is one of my favorite children to work with. He is working on strengthening his muscles in his trunk and legs while continuing to work on balance and coordination. Most patients are treated with therapy in clinics, hospitals, or schools. An occupational therapist must have a bachelor's degree and be licensed by the state in order to practice. As well as physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy is another type of therapy that works with some disabilities and injuries.
Speech therapy is usually grouped with the other two but does not involve as much physical injury. Speech-language pathologists and audiologists help people who have speech and hearing defects. They identify the problem, then use tests to further evaluate it. Speech-language pathologists and audiologists also try to improve the speech and hearing defect by treating the patient ("Speech" 551). These therapists also treat patients with communication, voice, or swallowing problems. The person's problem may be a result of hearing loss, brain deterioration, stroke, or mental retardation. Speech therapists help a person with pronunciation of words, making sounds, or pitch control. For those who are hearing impaired, therapists may teach them sign language to help them better communicate with others. A great deal of this type of therapy takes place in specializing clinics while some takes place in schools, teaching children how to relate to others. All licensed speech therapists are required to have a master's degree to practice therapy ("Speech").
These three types of therapy--physical, occupational, and speech--are just a few that are offered to those with disabilities or injuries. Even though these are totally different in their realm of patients, problems, and solutions, the main goal of each therapist is to work with the patient to help them recover and live an easier lifestyle. Some people cannot fully recover, but all the help they can receive is a step forward. The job market for these services is continually growing as more and more people are beginning to need these treatments and services. These therapies have been very beneficial to an abundance of people over the years. The outlook for therapists in these fields looks good as employment is expected to increase at a rate faster than average through 2008.
"Occupational Therapists." Occupational Outlook Handbook. 2000-01 ed. U. S. Department of Labor, Jan. 2000. 202-03.
"Physical Therapists." Occupational Outlook Handbook. 2000-01 ed. U. S. Department of Labor, Jan. 2000. 206.
The Princeton Review. "Physical Therapist." Review.com. 2000. <http://www.review.com> 26 Oct. 2000.
"Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists." Encyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance. 10th ed. Vol. 4 Chicago: J. G. Ferguson, 1997. 551.
---. Occupational Outlook Handbook. 2000-01 ed. U. S. Department of Labor, Jan. 2000. 215.