Evidence-Based Practice

What are the outcomes?

Occupational therapy is a science-driven profession that applies the most up-to-date research to service delivery. Evidence supports the effectiveness of adding an occupational therapy practitioner to your patients’ or clients’ treatment plan. According to systematic reviews from AOTA’s Evidence-Based Practice Occupational Therapy Practice Guidelines, evidence shows that the following occupational therapy interventions improve client outcomes. These interventions are used as part of a broad approach that considers the patient’s performance skills (motor, process, social interaction); activity demands; performance patterns (habits, routines, rituals, roles); and contexts and environments. 


Early Childhood

  • Play-based activities, rehearsal of social behaviors, modeling, and prompting to improve social behaviors
  • Oral stimulation programs, skin-to-skin contact, and sensory-motor-oral interventions to reduce the length of hospital stay
  • An early intervention program for preterm infants to improve cognitive outcomes in infancy and preschool
  • Infant massage to improve sleep and relaxation, reduce crying, and reduce hormones affecting stress
  • A caregiver-delivered home program for infants updated at 1, 2, and 3 months to improve motor performance
  • Family-centered help-giving that incorporates support to strengthen the family to improve satisfaction, parenting behavior, personal and family well-being, social support, and child behavior

Mental Health

  • Social and life skills programs for children with intellectual impairments and developmental delays to improve life skills, conversation turn-taking, initiation of social interaction, self-management, and compliance, and to decrease problem behaviors
  • Parenting programs for teenage mothers and their children to improve mother-infant interaction and parental attitudes and knowledge, maternal mealtime communication, self-confidence, and identity
  • Structured recreation and activity program for children with extreme shyness to increase extraversion and decrease timidity

Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing

  • A cognitive and task-based approach to address participation in occupations for children with motor-deficits characteristic of Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)
  • Sensory integration for gross motor and motor planning skills for children with learning disabilities
  • Sensory integration to address maladaptive behaviors in children with problems in sensory processing
  • Touch pressure/deep pressure and massage to address touch aversion and improved responsiveness to sound in children with autism 


  • Evidence Supports the Distinct Value of Occupational Therapy for Older Adults - pdf
  • Client-centered occupational therapy to improve physical functioning and occupational performance related to health management in frail older adults, and older adults with osteoarthritis and macular degeneration
  • Home modification and adaptive equipment provided by occupational therapy practitioners to reduce functional decline and improve safety
  • Exercise involving functional activities for older adults
  • Progressive resistance strength training to improve community mobility and meal preparation. Strengthening, balance retraining, and a walking plan to reduce falls and injuries for those older than 80 years
  • Short-term classroom and on-road instruction to improve driving knowledge and skills
  • Use of bioptics to improve simulated and on-road driving skills as well as outdoor mobility skill for older adults with visual impairments

Rehabilitation & Disability

  • Inpatient rehabilitation for individuals with multiple sclerosis to reduce disease severity and improve ADL status
  • Home-based, individualized, and computerized cognitive training to improve attention, memory, information processing, and executive functions for individuals with multiple sclerosis
  • Multi-session, repetitive physical exercise tasks for individuals with Parkinson’s disease to improve diachronic motor and sensory-perceptual performance skills
  • Client-preferred external cues during ADLs to improve motor control for individuals with Parkinson’s disease
  • Multidisciplinary program to improve survival, increase the use of appropriate assistive devices, and facilitate a higher quality of life in social functioning and mental health
  • Therapy based on personally meaningful tasks to increase therapeutic gains for individuals recovering from stroke
  • Instructions that focus on task-related parameters rather than on specific movement-related parameters, to improve movement organization among stroke survivors
  • Brief program of occupational therapy in home following discharge from hospital after stroke to improve recovery
  • Occupational therapy in stroke survivors’ homes focusing on community mobility, to increase community participation
  • Practice dressing for stroke survivors to improve independence in dressing and maintain improvements after therapy 

Adults With Serious Mental Illnesses

  • Life and social skills training with extended training in natural environments, to improve daily interactions
  • Cognitive skills training in conjunction with supported employment to improve job retention
  • Lifestyle interventions to improve health behaviors related to obesity and metabolic syndrome to reduce health care costs
  • Supported education programs to meet postsecondary education goals to promote independence
  • Physical activity, exercise, and outdoor activities to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Social cognition and problem solving training to enhance community participation 


  • Client-centered approaches, rather than predetermined regimens, to reduce disability and improve function, including return to work
  • Therapeutic occupations and activities, rather than bed rest, to reduce pain and improve functional recovery for individuals with low back pain
  • Meaningful and relevant therapeutic hand activities combining multiple movement patterns, force, and volition to facilitate better outcomes than exercise alone 

More information from the AOTA Evidence-Based Practice Guidelines can be provided upon request. Contact AOTA at