5 Questions to Ask an Occupational Therapist Before Starting Therapy

Occupational therapy helps you relearn the skills needed to perform everyday activities. This includes all meaningful daily activities you want to accomplish, such as taking care of yourself or your family, working, volunteering, going to school, and much more.* The process of starting therapy after a stroke can be overwhelming, but rehabilitation is vital to recovery.**   

We interviewed Ruchi Patel, MA, OTR/L, an occupational therapist (OT) with over 15 years of experience specializing in neurorehabilitation, on the top 5 questions you might be wondering about occupational therapy. You may want to consider also asking your potential OT these questions before you start your rehabilitation journey: 

1. What can I expect at my first session?

Patel says in the first session with a patient, she will start with a one-hour evaluation involving assessment of the patient’s physical and cognitive abilities. This also includes a discussion of the patient’s goals and determining how occupational therapy can provide help or training to achieve them. Discharge plans will also be discussed in this first session as well as what the task-based home exercises will look like.  

2. How much work will I be doing outside of therapy sessions?

There will be a lot of homework. Patel mentions that recovery is a team effort and you’re unlikely to see the results you want if you are not putting in the work outside of your sessions. Your OT will ensure that you have the tools you need to continue working on your functional exercises at home, because if you aren’t doing the exercises, you will not improve. 

3. Will the sessions be one-on-one?

Patel says that one-on-one occupational therapy sessions are very important for recovery—you do not want to just be set up on a machine or with a tech for the whole session. For stroke recovery, you want function-based sessions with high repetition because that is what is most effective for the brain to relearn goaloriented movements. Practical, task-based sessions are vital

4. What kind of experience should an OT have?

Patel recommends that you find an OT with experience in neuro rehab. It’s important to know what kind of experience they have and what continuing education they complete, because not all occupational therapists have the same certifications and experience. Occupational therapists take courses on what is relevant in their area, and you want to make sure your therapist is experienced in the care you specifically need. Continuing education also keeps OTs up to date on the latest methods, policies and research so they can refresh existing skills and learn new developments that can then be used to improve your rehab. 

5. What happens after I finish my round of OT?

Stroke recovery is a long-term process, and even though you may have ended one round of therapy, it doesn’t mean the work ends there. It is important to continue with the home exercise program provided by the therapist as well as use your affected arm, for example, in as many activities as possible even if it’s not perfect. Patel emphasizes that you can always go back for another round of therapy if you want (within insurance parameters)! She says that there are many patients that come back years after their stroke to try out new technologies, such as the FDA-approved Vivistim® Paired VNS™ System. Just because you’re discharged, it doesn’t mean you can’t continue to work at home and come back for more training later.  

There will be many more questions you may have before starting your first occupational therapy session, but always consider your healthcare provider’s recommendations for stroke rehabilitation intervention. To learn more about how the FDA-approved Vivistim® Paired VNS™ System can help in your recovery, visit this page or our blog for additional information. 

About Ruchi Patel, MA, OTR/L

Ruchi Patel is an occupational therapist with more than 15 years of experience in neurorehabilitation. She has worked across numerous settings, from inpatient rehabilitation to outpatient and homecare. She also works as a clinical researcher focusing on stroke rehabilitation and has presented at numerous conferences on topics including the use of technology in rehab. Additionally, she has published papers on cognition and rehabilitation outcome measures in the stroke population. Patel enjoys creating and teaching continuing education content to fellow therapists.


* https://www.aota.org/about/what-is-ot

** https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/stroke


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