top of page

Occupational Therapy Services that Support Families

Topics covered in this post include:

When occupational therapists work with families, the entire family's needs are considered, rather than just the specific needs of one individual.

Supporting Families and Why It’s Important

When occupational therapists work with families, the entire family's needs are considered, rather than just the specific needs of one individual. By working with the family as a cohesive unit, the capacity to care for one another improves and promotes satisfying lives. Collaborating with family and treating everyone as equals maximize the effectiveness of the services that are offered. Often, occupational therapists working with families support caregivers such as parents to empower them to be advocates for their children.

"Family-centred service delivery, across disciplines and settings, views the family as the unit of attention. This model organises assistance in a collaborative fashion in accordance with each individual family’s wishes, strengths, and needs" (Sylvia Rodger, 2013)

Goal Setting with Children and Families

One of the most crucial steps for occupational therapists and their clients is goal setting. Goal setting needs to be a collaborative process between children, their families, and therapists. Occupational therapists must be client-centred and family-centred so that children's and families' voices are being heard and their values respected. Often, it is assumed that young children are not capable of identifying their goals for therapy. However, research has shown that children do have the capacity to understand abstract processes. Therefore, children must be allowed to identify meaningful goals during therapy. Developing effective relationships with children and families is crucial for occupational therapists.

Using a Strengths-Based Approach

Occupational therapists often use a strengths-based approach to help families identify and value what a child can do rather than focus on the impairments. To help parents with this approach, occupational therapists assist caregivers in growing knowledge and skills,

along with the confidence to enable them to access, identify, and support their children and family to the best of their ability. Connecting families with support networks such as other families who share similar needs is another method that occupational therapists often employ.

Using a Strength-Based Approach with Children and Family Occupational Therapy Services

Examples of Strength-Based Approaches

Strengths-based approaches look beyond a person's limitations or labels of disability to help them achieve what is important and meaningful to them. Let's take a look at several examples of occupational therapy's role in promoting strengths.

  • in school settings, occupational therapists may consult with teachers to adapt classrooms so that they fit better with a student's strengths

  • in home environments, occupational therapists may support a child's positive behaviours to help them participate in activities

  • for individual or group settings, therapists may design therapies that support further development of meaningful activities or occupations

  • in community settings, occupational therapists may consult with clubs or sports teams to recommend modifications

"Developed as a response to models that focus on the deficit (Seligman, 1996), the strength-based approach seeks to view the individual holistically and explore his abilities and circumstances, rather than focusing on his weaknesses and deficits." - High 5 Test

Developing a Partnership Through Family-Centred Service

Occupational therapists strive to incorporate family-centred service into their practice. But what does this mean? Family-centred service acknowledges that every family is different and unique. Occupational therapists are well trained and often considered experts, but family-centred service recognizes that parents are also experts about their child's abilities and needs. Occupational therapists practicing using a family-centred approach consistently involve parents in the decision-making process. Ultimately, parents are responsible for making decisions around their child's care. However, all family members' needs should be considered, and input from all members is encouraged. The goal of family-centred service is to help develop a therapeutic relationship between therapists and families built upon trust and respect. The aim is to create a partnership where, together, issues and goals can be addressed using a collaborative process.

Client Centred Care with Family at the Core of Occupational Therapy Services


Sylvia Rodger, (2013) Occupation Centred Practice with Children: A Practical Guide for Occupational Therapists. (2013). Germany: Wiley.

“What Is Strength-Based Approach | Theory, Practice & Therapy.” HIGH5 TEST, Accessed 30 Dec. 2021.


bottom of page