what ot interventions to use with my patient

What OT Interventions Should I Do With My Patient?

Wow, it’s been six years since I wrote this article (when I was basically still a new OT grad)! I thought about totally reworking the whole thing, but I think it’s fun to keep it close to it’s original format to see what OT interventions worked for me “back in the day.”

That being said, I’m going to post ALL of my other OT intervention articles at the bottom of this post so you’ll have many more resources to choose from. If you want all of my favorite occupation-based interventions in one handy resource (plus bonus material), be sure to also check out my e-book, Be Functional: Creative, Occupation-Based Interventions for Adult Rehab Occupational Therapy

Okay, back to 2016 new OT grad Sarah:

“What interventions should I do with my patient?” I often ask myself this very question when I see a new patient. Every OT has those days where you have a tougher time than usual figuring out what interventions to do with your patient.

I use the interventions in this post when I feel like switching things up for my current patients in order to keep their therapy interesting and effective.

So for this post, I’ve listed my four favorite occupation-based OT interventions you can do with your patient.

As occupational therapists, we should all strive to keep our interventions client-centered and occupation-based whenever we can. Especially since patients will perform better with functional, meaningful tasks.

Want to learn more about functional interventions?

1. Groceries Galore

This is my favorite and most often used intervention because it is SO versatile. I purchased a small plastic bin and saved all of my empty, clean grocery containers. The containers all have various lids and labels so that they can be utilized them for functional reaching or fine motor coordination tasks. Patients may be seated, in a kitchen setting, or in the OT gym at your facility.

groceries galore

I love, love, love using my kit when I’m working on standing tolerance, reaching, and fine motor coordination. This allows my patients to work on multiple deficits at the same time. For reaching, the kit can be brought into kitchens, and you can have your patient reach either low or high based on their abilities.

For cognitive work with TBIs or strokes, I will also write prices down and make little worksheets with simple math problems for them to complete in addition to opening the containers.

2. ADL Retraining

For those of you new to occupational therapy, ADL is a very common phrase meaning Activities of Daily Living.

A lot of you may work in facilities that require you to schedule several ADL treatments a day. However, in some facilities that I’ve worked in, caregivers usually have already gotten the patients dressed before I get there. This makes it tricky to integrate ADL retraining as you normally would.

If this happens, I still strive to get a lot of quality self-care in. This includes donning/doffing socks and shoes and jackets in the afternoon or shower/tub transfers in the later morning.

Whatever the time is, you can never go wrong mixing in ADLs when related to a patient’s goal. The benefit will be greater than strictly working on therapeutic exercise or activities not related to deficits in self-care.

3. Simple Meal Prep

If you’re fortunate enough to work somewhere with any sort of kitchen, getting some just-add-water muffin mix with a bowl and muffin pan can go a long way. If that’s not available, it’s rare that a patient will say no to work on making a cup of coffee or tea!

ot interventions meal prep

Simple meal prep works on SO much: balance, reaching, problem solving, attention, upper extremity range of motion, and more. It is especially helpful for patients with impaired cognition.

Simple meal prep is a highly functional intervention and helps you gauge your patient’s safety at home post-discharge.

4. Folding Clothes

Forget that outdated ROM rainbow arc!

Bring in some old clothes you meant to donate to The Goodwill. You could also use towels at your facility if you’re in a pinch. You can incorporate folding clothes with standing (if possible) and work on upper body range of motion this way instead of that totally non-functional arc.

Your patients will definitely appreciate this, and they won’t feel like they’re doing some meaningless task.

ot interventions folding clothes

There are so many other great occupation-based interventions to do with your patient. These are currently my favorites but I’m always looking for more great ideas! What are some of your favorite functional OT interventions? Share them in the comments!

Want to learn more about functional interventions?


Additional OT Intervention Articles from My OT Spot:

Activity Tolerance Intervention Ideas for Occupational Therapists

Occupation-Based Balance Interventions For Your OT Practice

11+ Functional Standing Tolerance Activities for Occupational Therapists

11+ Fine Motor Coordination Activities for Adult Rehab Patients

Cognitive Interventions for Traumatic Brain Injury

This post was originally published on September 5, 2016 and updated on February 1, 2022.

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