A glance into the history conveys that, the method of acquiring physical and mental health through creative jobs was prevalent right from the period of Greek physician Aschlepiades (BC-100).Globally, the idea behind occupational therapy sprouts out in A.D.172, when the Greek physician Galen said “Employment is Nature’s Best medicine and essential to human happiness”.

Till the earlier 18th century, the society behaved in a very cruel and brutal manner to mental patients. These patients were kept in mental asylums without necessary facilities or care. During this period a French physician named Philippe Pinel (1745 – 1826), provided these persons with opportunity to engage in creative & productive occupations according to their ability. Its result was amazing. Many of these patients acquired the skill to retrieve back in fruitful and effective professions. This provided the world an opportunity to realize the importance of engaging in productive occupations.

The health profession of occupational therapy was conceived in the early 1910s as a reflection of the Progressive Era. The emergence of occupational therapy, challenged the views of mainstream thoughts about diseases at that time. Instead of focusing on purely physical etiologies, occupational therapists argued that a complex combination of social, economic, and biological reasons cause dysfunction. Between 1900 and 1930, the founders defined the realm of practice and developed supporting theories.

Later during the period of World War the need for Occupational Therapy rose again. The reason for this was the functional restoration perspective of Occupational Therapy to engage those who are wounded and disabled during the war in fruitful ‘occupation’. Duringthis period, occupational therapists successfully convinced the public and health care system and established standards for our profession.

Gradually occupational therapy gained attention in other areas of functioning like pediatric rehabilitation, child psychiatry, geriatrics, ergonomics, hand rehabilitation etc… Today, Occupational therapy empowers people of all age with physical, emotional, and psychological problems to lead an independent life with pride in 76 countries world wide.

(For more details http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupational_therapy)

Occupational Therapy in India 

In 1855, Regular ‘Occupation’ based treatment was reported in Madras mental Asylum (No.VII. Report on civil dispensaries, for 1853. Madras. 1855. Report by: Alexander Lorimer). In 1935, Lt. Col. Berkley Hill started Occupational Therapy at the European Mental Hospital, Kanke, Ranchi. (Parkar SR, Dawani VS, Apte JS.History of psychiatry in India. J Postgrad Med 2001;47:73)

In 1950, Mrs. Kamala V Nimbkar – an American lady – started Occupational Therapy Department at K.E.M. Hospital at Mumbai. In 1950 an Occupational Therapy School was started there. In 1952, All India occupational Therapists Association (AIOTA) was formed. AIOTA is issuing the certification for practicing occupational therapy & it also maintains the OT education standards in India. Today about 25 Occupational Therapy (O.T.) Colleges are functioning in India.

Unfortunately this potential profession doesn’t have enough publicity as it deserves across the country. The main reason attributed for this scenario is relatively less awareness about this noble profession among policy makers & other health care professionals. (See the article titled “Current status & potential future of OT in India” for more details)