What is a Therapy Assistant?
There are three major classifications of Therapy Assistants:
- Occupational Therapy Assistants
- Physical Therapy Assistants
- Speech and Language Therapy Assistants
Occupational Therapy Assistants (OTAs) help sick, injured or old people to be as independent as possible. Occupational Therapy Assistants, under the supervision of an occupational therapist, assist clients in regaining abilities lost due to injury, as well as rebuilding their health, independence, and self-esteem.
Physical Therapist Assistants (PTAs) work under the direction and supervision of a qualified physical therapist to perform physical therapy treatments. As a physical therapist assistant, you could work with athletes recovering from sports injuries, infants trying to meet developmental goals, or patients learning to walk again after back surgery.
Speech and Language Therapy Assistants (SLTAs) treat patients with communication, swallowing, and feeding difficulties. SLTAs work closely with all age groups, under the supervision of a Language and Speech Therapist. They can work with children who have slow language development skills or adults, such as people recovering from strokes.
While OTAs and PTAs both work to assist patients to regain movement in their bodies, their patients’ treatment goals are distinct.
Physical therapy is designed to assist those with limited mobility in recovering from injuries or illnesses. PTAs attempt to reduce patients’ pain, improve their balance, and improve the overall function of a body part by using a range of exercises. An OTA, on the other hand, is more concerned with assisting patients in taking care of themselves in their daily life. At whatever stage of life, OTAs seek to assist patients in being as self-sufficient as possible.
Unlike with the PTA and OTA, the goal for Speech and Language Therapy Assistant is to primarily improve communication. SLTAs assist their patients in obtaining speech muscle coordination through strengthening and coordination exercises, sound repetition and imitation.
Just like their job descriptions, the duties of Therapy Assistants depend on their classification.
Occupational Therapy Assistants perform a variety of duties. Some of their responsibilities include:
- Examining patient’s homes or workplaces and making recommendations for changes as needed
- Interviewing patients and collecting their medical histories to verify patient information
- Advising patients on equipment that simplifies daily tasks
- Educating family members on patient care and sharing how they can assist in the healing process
- Organising and ordering supplies
- Preparing clients to return to work or school
- Monitoring activities to ensure patients are performing them correctly
- Providing encouragement to patients
- Helping children with motor skills and hand-eye coordination
Responsibilities of a Physical Therapy Assistant include some of the following tasks:
- Demonstrating exercises to patients
- Performing stretches with patients
- Conducting diagnostic tests of muscles, nerves and joints
- Documenting patient progress
- Ordering supplies and maintaining equipment
- Reading and comprehending patient information and treatment plans
- Monitoring vital signs
- Assessing pain tolerance of patients
- Helping patients manage their emotional reactions
- Introducing patients to adaptive equipment such as crutches
Responsibilities of a Speech and Language Therapy Assistant include:
- Assistance in organising and running/overseeing therapy programmes
- Developing knowledge of eating and drinking difficulties (EDDs)
- Assisting Speech and Language Therapist in the conduct of client screenings
- Implementing assessments of language, voice, fluency, articulation or hearing.
- Collecting and compiling data to document clients’ performance
- Conducting individual and group sessions
- Demonstrating speech and language exercises to patients
If you decide to work in the public health sector (for the UK National Health Service - NHS), you will be paid according to the Agenda for Change (AFC) pay system. This pay scheme is applied to all NHS employees, except for dentists, doctors and senior managers.
There are a number of pay points in each of the nine pay bands. Employees typically advance to the next pay point every year until they reach the top of the pay band. In addition to basic salary, employees who work in high-cost areas such as London receive additional compensation.
Therapy assistants are classified as Band 2 or Band 3 depending on their experience, qualifications and skill set.
Entry-level salary for a Band 2 Therapy assistant in the NHS is £18,546 for those with less than two years of work experience, and £19,918 for those with more than two years experience.
Salary for a Band 3 NHS Therapy Assistant with less than two years experience is £20,330, for those who have more than two years experience income increases to £21,777. Working for the NHS will also give you access to excellent pension plans and health-care discounts, as well as 27 days of annual leave plus bank holidays, which will expand as your service length increases.
You could also work in the private sector. The overall average UK salary for Therapy Assistants is:
- Speech and Language Therapy Assistants earn £18,545 at an entry-level while those with more experience earn £24,881.
- Occupational Therapy Assistants earn £20,329 at an entry-level while those with more experience earn £24,881.
- Physical Therapy Assistants earn £18,545 at an entry-level while those with more experience earn £21,176.
Working hours and work location
Physical Therapy Assistants could be working in:
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Outpatient physical therapy clinics
- Rehabilitation centres
- Home health agencies
- Sports fitness facilities
- Elderly care centres
- Stroke services
- Mental health and learning disability services
- Occupational health
Occupational Therapy Assistants can be based in:
- Residential homes
- Care homes
- GP practices
- They may also visit patients in their private homes
Speech and Language Assistants typically work in:
- Mainstream and special schools.
- Courtrooms, prisons, young offenders institutions.
- Health – community health centres, hospital wards, outpatient departments.
- Children’s centres.
- Day centres.
- Clients homes.
- In private practices
If you decide to work for the NHS as a Therapy Assistant, your typical work week will be approximately 37.5 hours long and will likely include a variety of shifts, like nights, early mornings, evenings, and weekends.
Otherwise, Physical Therapy Assistants on average work 40 to 42 hours per week, and their work may include evenings/weekends. Occupational Therapy Assistants and Speech and Language Assistants work 40 to 42 hours per week, between 8am and 6pm. The private sector gives you the opportunity to work part-time or in other ways that are more flexible.
There are no set entry requirements for OT or PT Assistants. However, employers look for candidates with strong numeracy and literacy skills, as well as experience or qualifications in health or social care. Employers may request English and maths GCSEs.
A BTEC or a comparable vocational qualification in health and social care may also be requested.
A BSc (Hons) in Professional Health Studies is the best way to give you a wide range of opportunities in the Health Sector, including work placement in Therapy Assistance. Degree apprenticeships are becoming more popular as they allow you to make a living while completing your education. Apprenticeships are covered by your employer and the government. If you get an apprenticeship in healthcare or clinical assistance, you might be eligible to apply for Therapy Assistant jobs later on. Employers frequently inquire about appropriate work experience. Even if this isn’t indicated, it’s a plus if you’ve worked in health or social care before, whether for pay or as a volunteer. In addition to the BSc in Professional Health Studies these qualifications could be advantageous:
- the NCFE CACHE level 2 Certificate in Healthcare Support Services
- the NCFE CACHE level 3 Diploma in Healthcare Support
As associate members, some Therapy Assistants join the British Association and College of Occupational Therapists (BAOT/COT). The BAOT/COT offers training, conferences, and seminars for OT support workers to keep their skills up to date and network with others in the field.
Different Therapy Assistants do require some different skill sets.
A Physical Therapy Assistant needs to have good stamina and physical strength, along with good motivational skills to help encourage patients to keep moving. A Speech and Language Therapy Assistant will have to be skilled in producing/using speech and understanding language. In order to assist their patients in gaining the necessary language skills, Speech and Language Therapy Assistants have to be excellent motivators with unlimited patience and understanding.
An Occupational Therapy Assistant must also be an expert motivator, especially when the patient becomes frustrated with learning a new Activities of Daily Living (ADL) or Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL).
ADLs are the basic chores that we must perform on a daily basis in order to survive, such as bathing, eating, and toileting.
IADLs are more difficult chores such as child-rearing, shopping, and driving.
must have skills:
- Compassion and respect for their patients
- Communication skills
- Motivation skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Counselling skills, including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
- Attention to detail
- Multitasking skills
- Ability to work well with others
- Positive attitude
- Problem solving skills and patience
- Being flexible and open to change
- Willing to travel
In addition, all Therapy Assistants should also possess good people-reading skills in order to read how patients are feeling during their therapy sessions.
Each of the branches in Therapy assistance include specific work experience.
Patients in occupational therapy have a difficult time performing daily duties such as cooking, brushing their teeth, and washing the dishes. They can be people of all ages with various disabilities or anyone who has lost skills as a result of an injury. Some of the groups that you will be expected to work with as an Occupational Therapy Assistant are:
- People adapting to life after major surgery, such as a hip replacement
- Children with disabilities who take part in school and play activities
- Dementia sufferers
- Stroke patients
- People suffering from mental illness and wanting to get back into everyday activities, such as work or volunteering
- Elderly people living in their own homes
Patients in physical therapy are treated for specific injuries sustained in sports, surgeries, accidents, or illnesses that have hampered their ability to move and function. Athletes, children failing to meet developmental milestones, and people recovering from surgery are all examples of patients. As a Physical Therapy Assistant you may work with individuals or groups of all ages and situations with a range of conditions, including:
- Neurological (stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s)
- Respiratory (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis)
- Neuromusculoskeletal (back pain, whiplash associated disorder, sports injuries, arthritis)
- Cardiovascular (chronic heart disease, rehabilitation after heart attack)
Nearly 20% of the population experience communication difficulties at some point in their lives. As a Speech and Language Therapy Assistant you will help people of all ages who have difficulties with:
- Producing and using speech
- Understanding language
- Feeding, chewing or swallowing
- A stammer
- Their voice
With time and expertise, you may be able to supervise the work of other Therapy Assistants as a team leader. You might also be interested in becoming an assistant practitioner or an occupational, physical or language and speech therapist.
Statistics highlight the importance of Occupational, Physical and Speech and Language therapy in the UK. In 2021. there were around 47.3 thousand occupational therapists in 2021, 78 thousand physiotherapists and 21.4 thousand speech and language therapists.
While our jobs allow us to pay our bills and support our lifestyles outside of work, it’s equally critical that we find them fulfilling and purposeful. It is important to highlight that if you’re considering a career in Therapy Assistance you will be in the position to make a beneficial impact on people’s lives. What can be more rewarding than making a positive difference?
Here are some MSc recommendations:
This three year full-time course delivered by University of the West of Scotland London is an excellent method to advance in the healthcare or social work fields. Thought at their London campus, this course aims to teach students the principles of health policy, with an emphasis on the relationship between social and health care.