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ask for ot

Are occupational therapy (OT) services covered as part of your health benefits? If the answer is no, you can take action to request that this important benefit be added to your health plan.

Listed below are resources and tools for you to:

  • Learn more about occupational therapy and the benefits that OT services can provide to you and your family;
  • Discover more about how OT services have made a difference for others; and
  • Call or write to your health plan administrator and request OT services be added to your health plan. You will find the tools you need at the bottom of this page.

ask for ot

Are occupational therapy (OT) services covered as part of your health benefits? If the answer is no, you can take action to request that this important benefit be added to your health plan.

Listed below are resources and tools for you to:

  • Learn more about occupational therapy and the benefits that OT services can provide to you and your family;
  • Discover more about how OT services have made a difference for others; and
  • Call or write to your health plan administrator and request OT services be added to your health plan. You will find the tools you need at the bottom of this page.

What is Occupational Therapy?

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Occupational Therapists (OTs) focus on function and independence. They help a person to develop skills, improve physical, cognitive, and emotional abilities, adapt their environment, and/or change the way they do activities. This helps the person better cope with the difficulties created by their own or their family member’s aging, disease, injury, or illness.

OTs enable change by helping a person to increase their functioning, adapt their skills, maximize the abilities they already have, and problem-solve barriers. OTs work with people of all ages to promote health, prevent disability and develop or maintain abilities so that a person can lead a more productive and satisfying life.

Examples of how an OT can assist a person include the following:

  • Self-care such as dressing, eating, moving around, caring for your children or another adult, and housekeeping
  • Productivity in your community, at school and with work activities
  • Leisure such as exercise, sports, gardening, and social activities


  • Develop, research and provide occupational therapy services
  • Are university educated health care professionals
  • Are medically trained to understand the medical and physical limitations of a disability or injury, along with the psychosocial and environmental factors that affect a person’s functioning
  • Are regulated health care professionals. In Alberta they must be registered with the Alberta College of Occupational Therapists (ACOT) to legally provide OT services to a resident of Alberta. Click here to check if your OT is registered in Alberta

How does Occupational Therapy help?

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OTs help a person problem solve why they are having difficulty managing activities that are important to them and that they are responsible for.

The OT may assess:

  • Your physical abilities such as strength, balance, and coordination;
  • Your cognitive abilities such as memory, attention, and organizational skills;
  • Your emotional abilities such as coping patterns and skills;
  • The materials or devices you use to participate in activities, such as furniture, utensils, tools, clothes, mobility aids, leisure aids;
  • Social and emotional supports available to you at home, school, work or in the community; and
  • The physical setup of your house, classroom, workplace or other environment.

Depending on your goals for OT service and the difficulties that are identified, the Occupational Therapist may help with any of the following:

  • Easing the impact that disabilities or limitations have on day-to-day functioning
  • Adapting materials already in use or available to use
  • Recommending and assisting with making changes to the environments where self-care, productive or leisure activities are performed

OTs use a variety of strategies, techniques  and tools including:

  • Education or instruction on how to do things within the abilities a person has – e.g., getting around their community in a wheelchair with more confidence, joining a social group, changing jobs
  • Suggesting activities that will help a person to improve or maintain the abilities they have – e.g., teach relaxation skills, teach organization skills, education on how to use physical activity to improve focus and reduce anxiety
  • Help a person to improve social, self-awareness or psychological skills – e.g., anxiety management, exposure therapy, accompany a person to a new group
  • Arrange for a person to learn more about, trial or purchase an aid – e.g., special bath bench to be safe and independent with bathing; vehicle modifications to resume driving; use of specific small appliances or tools to make meal preparation more manageable
  • Introduce a person to a different way to do an activity they enjoy or are responsible for – e.g., playing card holder, sit-skiing, modified exercise program, modified work, how to pace housekeeping tasks
  • Recommend changes to home environment to improve independence and safety and advocate for financial support to make changes – e.g., where to put grab bars and hand holds, whether a ramp or lift is more appropriate to access your house, how to position furniture, work with home contractor on home renovation, help with completing application for funding
  • Advocate for better accommodation in the community through education and specific recommendations – e.g., accessing fitness facility with personal assist dog, extra time or quiet location to complete a test, modified work schedule, funding for recommended aids to use in the community or at work
  • Research and recommend community supports and services that would be a good fit with the person, their activity and their environment – i.e., hiring home services, finding an exercise program, finding a social group, setting up transportation

Occupational therapists can help prevent complications such as the following:

  • Unnecessary hospital stays and readmissions by assisting a person to follow the instructions provided by their doctor, accessing community resources, and obtaining the medical supplies, aids, and other supports they need to look after themselves
  • The chance of a relapse or development of a chronic condition by assisting a person to follow their care plan, to problem solve barriers with doing so, and complete applications for financial or social assistance
  • Premature moves into a care home by helping a person to set up their home to be as safe as possible for them and to understand how to use aids and resources to be more independent at home
  • Work difficulties and injuries by assisting a person to be physically comfortable at their workstation, address learning difficulties, be better organized with work activities, and how to improve communication with others at work. The OT can also provide education to the employer and co-workers when appropriate.
  • Unnecessary problems at school by assisting the student to feel more comfortable and included at school, to better manage learning and attention difficulties, and to interact with other students and teachers in a positive way. The OT can also provide support to teachers and classmates when appropriate.
  • Underemployment among people with a barrier that can be assisted by occupational therapy including (but not limited to) persons with physical, cognitive or mental disability and/or are impacted by their environment such as having a means to get to work, money to buy the clothes they need to wear to work, and childcare set up.


How My OT Helped Me – Stories from Other Albertans

Meet Mateo: Overcoming Developmental Delays

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Mateo is 5 years old and did not walk until age 2 along with other developmental delays including with speech and fine motor skills. Through their own research, Mateo’s parents sought out an occupational therapist [OT] for help with fine motor skills, along with independent dressing and toileting. Because Mateo did not have a diagnosis, he did not qualify for government funded supports (FSCD), and school-based supports were limited. 

Mateo’s family have extended health benefits through Alberta Blue Cross and were able to self refer to a private occupational therapist in their community for OT services at home. 

Using the SAOT Find an OT search feature, Mateo’s parents found an OT with a special interest in pediatrics. 

How Occupational Therapy [OT] assisted Mateo and his parents:

  • The OT gathered information from Mateo’s parents that included any past diagnoses, assessments and/or treatments; Mateo’s strengths and limitations; and the family’s goals for therapy. The OT recommended 5-6 intervention sessions.
  • Using play as a model for therapy, the OT assessed Mateo’s function and then worked one-on-one with him to strengthen his core, advance his fine motor skills, and develop skills with a focus on the family goals.
  • OT made adaptive aid recommendations to help Mateo to be as independent as he could be. Such as the use of velcro closures on shoes and a footstool at the toilet. 
  • Activities were gradually advanced and transferred to his home and school environment so that others could assist him with age-appropriate development.

Outcome for Mateo:

  • He has become more efficient at dressing and undressing himself plus toileting. He can pull his pants & shirt on and off; can put on boots/shoes that have Velcro; and can unzip his coat.
  • Mateo increased his core strength allowing him to be more stable on his feet and requiring less assistance on the playground. 
  • The increase in core strength and confidence also helped Mateo be more comfortable with toileting. The footstool gave him more independence with getting on and off the toilet and to feel more secure when seated. 
  • He has developed more confidence and is more social with his peers
Meet Mark: Union Employee with a Spinal Cord Injury

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Mark is 42 years old and works for the waterworks department of a mid-sized municipality. Unfortunately, he sustained a spinal cord injury while camping and was recently discharged after six months of rehabilitation. He lives on an acreage and was concerned about how he would be able to travel away from home on his own. His spouse works full-time, both children are in school, and extended family lives at least an hour away.

His medical specialist had advised that he was stable enough to pursue his driver’s license, and his rehabilitation team had already given him some ideas about what would be required for him to drive again. Due to the type of support Mark requires to operate a vehicle by himself, he needed a special type of assessment that he had to pay for. The occupational therapist [OT] in the hospital directed Mark to the SAOT Find an OT to help find an OT who could help him to find the correct assessor and to assist with the referral (including paperwork).

Mark used his extended health care benefits through his employer to pay for this consultation and for the driving assessment (which was also completed by an OT). Realizing that he may lose his work benefits (or experience a reduction of his benefits) if he was unable to return to work, his spouse contacted their union representative to discuss why OT services were not included in the spouse’s benefit package alongside physical therapy, massage therapy, psychology, chiropractic, etc.

How Occupational Therapy assisted Mark and his family

With Mark’s consent OT:

  • Referred Mark for the driving assessment, completed the necessary paperwork, and assisted with travel arrangements
  • Directed the spouse to a sample letter on the SAOT website that they could use to advocate for the inclusion of OT services with the spouse’s benefit plan
  • Assisted Mark to make the most of the benefits he did have at the time
  • Helped Mark to fill in any gaps in the services funded by the public health care system to maintain continuity in his care long term. This included assistance with applications for disability benefits, finding community supports that were accessible for him, help to adjust to his disability, and looking for and maintaining meaningful activity given the change in his physical abilities

Outcome for Mark

  • Mark obtained his driver’s license and had his vehicle modified for independent use. He can now travel into the community by himself year round
  • With the use of the SAOT letter, the union representative’s support, and that of other members of the union, they were successful in having OT services added to the extended health plan. This allowed Mark, and other employees of the same company, to access OT services as needed into the foreseeable future
  • Mark learned how to cope with his loss of physical function and found new ways to feel productive. This included volunteering; trying out various adapted sports; and learning how to set up vacations that were enjoyable for him and his family
  • When Mark experienced any significant changes in his function, he was able to contact OT for support with adapting to the change to lessen the impact on his function with day to day activities and to advocate for any new benefits he may be eligible for
Meet Darlene: Ready to Retire

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Darlene is widowed and in her late 50’s, preparing to retire. She lives in a three-story home with her adult children.  She is physically and emotionally exhausted by the demands of her job and  the impact that standing long hours has on her knees.  She also has difficulty managing her emotions related to relationship stresses on the  job and at home. She has been diagnosed with post-traumatic-stress-disorder, hoarding disorder, osteoarthritis and depression.

Darlene’s physician is concerned about her health  and her deteriorating social and emotional functioning. She attends work and goes home. That’s it. She has dropped her social activities and rarely contacts her friends. Darlene does not want to go on sick leave and does not  trust health professionals. Six months ago, however, she took a medical leave and did experience some improvements in her function after attending a mental health day program for 8 weeks.  

Darlene’s psychiatrist referred her to Occupational Therapy and has requested a functional assessment, including a home visit and intervention recommendations. She found out that her insurance plan had coverage for OT and used the  SAOT Find an OT to find an OT nearby with an interest in mental health.  

How Occupational Therapy assisted Darlene:

  • Initial assessment completed virtually.
  • Home visit to identify situations at home, assess impact of hoarding on a day-to-day life (amount of disorder and concerns with acquiring, organizing, and letting go of things), and to establish relevant goals.
  • Strategies were offered to gain awareness of her  emotions and to  practice communication skills, energy conservation, and pacing. 
  • Provided support and training on how to interrupt  the urge to purchase things, and to let go of belongings.
  • Education and strategies provided on setting boundaries  in social situations.
  • A combination of virtual and in-person sessions were provided to reinforce newly learned skills and to help Darlene prepare for the lifestyle change of retirement.
  • Facilitated family meetings to support her changes.
  • Darlene was followed for two years by OT and discharged with community and family support in place.

Outcome for Darlene:

  • Darlene reported feeling prepared to  navigate into retirement .
  • Her physical health and ability to pace and structure her day improved remarkably.
  • Darlene achieved a considerable sense of success and mastery over her on-going commitment to reducing clutter and creating order.
  • She became  more  assertive as she created space for her own needs.
  •  She began to acknowledge a wide range of feelings and to discover more joy.
  • Darlene identified what  was important for her satisfaction in her future lifestyle as a retiree.
Meet George: Senior Living at Home

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George is a 70-year-old retired man. He is independent with activities of daily living, but he is also a caregiver for his 74-year-old wife who is in frail health. They have limited support from family and Home Care. George worries about his wife constantly and has been neglecting his own self-care. They eat less often, and their home is becoming cluttered. There are some repairs that have been delayed, but this could lead to long-term damage to the home. At times George thinks that life does not seem to be worth living. He does not know where to turn to for help.

George’s son suggested that George consult his private health plan to determine if he could access some support. George realized that he had funding for occupational therapy through his private health insurance plan and used the Find an OT search feature to find an OT nearby with an interest in working with older adults.

How occupational therapy assisted George:

  • Met with George to better understand his concerns and difficulties, met his wife and reviewed their home to better understand if there were any immediate safety concerns.
  • Helped George to develop and prioritize his needs and goals.
  • Helped George to understand and use the skills and resources he already had to address his challenges with looking after himself, his wife and their home.
  • Provided practical guidance for where to access resources and support for both himself and his wife using government or community funded supports.
  • Filled in gaps when other funded resources were limited or hard to find. This included education, listening, coaching, advocacy, and support.

Outcome for George:

  • After a few weeks, George reported an improvement in his mood and his ability to manage.
  • With help from OT and community supports George felt able to prioritize immediate and long-term needs. He felt better able to make a reasonable action plan to look after himself, his wife and their home so that they could continue to live safely in their home.
  • George is better informed about the community resources available to him and his wife to assist them now and in the future, and if there is a cost for the support.

Ask for OT – Tools

If your current health insurance plan does not include occupational therapy services, you can use these tools to request that OT services be added to your plan.

Write a Letter

Use one of these letter templates as a guide to write a letter to your employer, insurance company or union.

Make a Call or Schedule a Meeting

Use one of these scripts as a guide to call or meet with your employer, insurance company or union.


Have questions? Call or email SAOT.

P: 780-803-0350

E: info@saot.ca