Occupational Therapy | UnityPoint Health - Des Moines

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Occupational therapy at UnityPoint Health - Des Moines

Occupational Therapy at UnityPoint Health - Des Moines

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy (OT) treatment helps individuals who have a physical, sensory or cognitive disability live an independent life as much as possible. Occupational therapists help persons of all ages participate in the things they want or need to do through the use of activities. This could mean helping injured individuals recover their skills, assisting a child with disabilities with participating in school or social situations or helping older adults who are experiencing cognitive or physical changes.

Where is occupational therapy offered?

OT can be provided in a variety of settings. These settings include:

  • Private therapy settings
  • Group therapy settings
  • Hospitals
  • Community-based outpatient clinics
  • Residences
  • Long-term care facilities (skilled nursing, rehabilitation centers, senior living facilities)
  • Clinics

Who needs outpatient occupational therapy?

People of all ages can benefit from OT. Not only does occupational therapy benefit a person's well being, but also can address social, environmental psychological factors that affect function.

OT and Children

Certain medical conditions in children could benefit from occupational therapy. Those conditions include:

  • Birth defects
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Cancer
  • Developmental delays
  • Mental health or behavioral issues
  • Chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and cerebral palsy
  • Sensory processing disorders
  • Learning disabilities
  • Autism/pervasive developmental disorders

An occupational therapist may help a child with their motor skills (grasping and releasing objects and handwriting) and improving hand-eye coordination. In children with severe developmental delays, an occupational therapists will help a child learn basic tasks like bathing, dressing, brushing their teeth or feeding.

Furthermore, an outpatient occupational therapist can evaluate whether or not a child needs a wheelchair, communication aids, splints, bathing equipment or dressing devices.

OT for Adults

Similarly to children, certain medical conditions and injuries can benefit from treatment from an occupational therapists:

  • Mental health problems
  • Stroke or heart attack survivors
  • Head injuries
  • Arthritis, MS or permanent disabilities
  • Burns
  • Spinal cord trauma
  • Amputees or those with prosthetics
  • Sensory disorders

For aging adults, occupational therapy helps them safely do things they like to do. This could be different tasks around the home, Alzheimer's care, recovering from a stroke or living with arthritis.

What to Expect in an Occupational Therapy Appointment

While it varies from person-to-person, there are a few things a person can expect when they begin meeting with an occupational therapist. To begin, he or she will undergo an individualized evaluation which will help determine the goals of the patient. Depending on the needs of the individual, the occupational therapist may also perform an evaluation of the environments a person may regularly be in, like a home, school or workplace.

Throughout outpatient occupational therapy, there may be outcome evaluations to ensure that goals are being met, and if not, make updates or changes to the treatment plan.

The Difference Between Occupational and Physical Therapy

There is a difference between physical and occupational therapy. The treatments improve a person's quality of life. PT focuses on joint range of motion, gross motor functioning, strength and pain, while OT focuses on fine motor skills, cognitive abilities, visual-perceptual skills and sensory-processing.

Occupational Therapy Services at UnityPoint Health - Des Moines

At UnityPoint Health - Des Moines, we offer rehabilitation to meet everyone's needs. Our individualized care is 1:1 therapist to patient. Care is provided on an outpatient basis, however, our occupational therapists are located at the following clinics throughout the Des Moines metro:


Blank Children's Hospital offers a full range of therapy services for inpatient and outpatient care for infants, children and teens who have an injury, developmental condition or illness. Our services include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and audiology.