Become an occupational therapy support worker

Becoming an occupational therapy support worker is a hugely rewarding and diverse career.

Occupational therapy support workers (also known as occupational therapy assistants/rehabilitation assistants/technical instructors) assist registered occupational therapists in their day-to-day duties. They support and encourage clients and report back on their progress, liaising with the occupational therapist and possibly with nursing staff and social services. They also make sure clients have all the special aids they need and that the equipment is in good working order.

Occupational therapy support staff benefit from learning on the job and can choose to develop their skills further through formal training programmes. For example, they may study to obtain a QCF level 2 or 3 qualification in Healthcare Support Services or Clinical Healthcare Support. There are also other options available such as a BTEC in Occupational Therapy Support, foundation degrees in Health and Social Care or the Higher National Certificate in Occupational Therapy Support.

Generally, there are no specific qualifications required to become an occupational therapy support worker, although there are programmes available which provide an entry qualification into this kind of work. Some employers may have specific requirements regarding experience and prior learning, depending on the role. 

Qualities needed:

  • A caring and encouraging attitude
  • Tact and sensitivity
  • Patience
  • Good communication skills
  • Initiative
  • The ability to work in a team
  • The ability to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds 

The interest in these posts is very strong, so applying can be competitive. Be sure to check with the employer about what skills and experience might give you a better chance of employment. 

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Education and training for support workers

Some employers have in-house training available for their support staff. Many occupational therapy support staff study for vocational awards, such as an NVQ/SVQ. There are also other options available such as a BTEC in Occupational Therapy Support, foundation degrees in Health and Social Care or the Higher National Certificate in Occupational Therapy Support.

Agored Cymru offers an extensive range of qualifications and units for use within the Healthcare, Child Care and Social Care Sectors and our Careers Handbook provides useful information about applying to study occupational therapy.

Meet an occupational therapy technician

In a cosy workshop in the occupational therapy department of Wotton Lawn hospital in Gloucester, Chris Lucas, an occupational therapy technician and an active member of the Associate Member Committee can be found hard at work. He is surrounded by fabulous and inspiring creations, all of which have been made by patients who have been referred to the occupational therapy team as part of their treatment.

As a mental health hospital, Wotton Lawn provides the acute inpatient services for adults in Gloucestershire. The occupational therapy team consists of ten occupational therapists and four technicians who run a seven-day therapy service. Using the Model of Human Occupation, the team work together to design services based around the occupation-focused care pathway. A wide range of facilitated activities are planned and co-ordinated by occupational therapy technicians and draw from their skills and talents.

Chris has worked for the trust for nearly ten years and has helped to produce lots of exciting pieces from his workshop. He has led various different projects from building a rowing boat to creating an intricate doll's house. Drawing from his past experiences, he uses his skills to get involved in lots of different activities based on the needs of the patients and has helped to set up a regular curry club, which is very popular with both staff and patients, a breakfast club and a thriving green space project.

Chris' role as a technician is paramount to the department and as a technician his close work with patients allows him to build up a rapport and really make a difference, supporting the planning of activities and leading sessions.

Already a support worker? Find out more about our associate membership