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We Do Rehab Too: What’s the Difference with Habilitative Occupational Therapy

April 29, 2020

For every family and client that comes through our doors to receive either occupational therapy (OT) or speech/language therapy (SLT) services, their treatment is classified as one of two categories: habilitative (HAB) or rehabilitative (REHAB). Per the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA, 2016, para. 3) “rehabilitative services help a person keep, get back, or improve skills and functioning for daily living that have been lost or impaired because a person was sick, hurt, or disabled.” Whereas HAB services are reserved for when an individual is developing a new skill that had not been previously acquired. Most cases we work with at BRAINS in OT and SLT fall under the latter because of our roots in testing and treating people with developmental delays and mental health disorders. Often these difficulties occur in the womb and/or are hereditary, meaning we are born with them or have had trouble developing them and there was not an injury or illness that created the difficulty.

However, we provide REHAB care as well! While treatment for the two can often look similar, the reason why the individual is being referred is different. Both OT and SLT often work with clients who have suffered from strokes, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, joint replacements, cancer, and other physical or neurological conditions. Often these injuries and traumatic life events leave an individual significantly impaired. They lose the ability to function independently and may need assistance getting themselves dressed, using the bathroom, communicating with loved ones, swallowing their food, or trying to fulfill their role in life they once were so great at. It is our role to help get those skills back! In some cases, they may need to relearn different methods to accomplish those especially important tasks with adaptive techniques and compensatory strategies. BRAINS can, and wants to, help those individuals too!

Our therapy staff are experts at assessing clients’ strengths and weaknesses, realizing their potential, and utilizing that information to develop a plan of care and a set of attainable goals. Both OT and SLT rely heavily on evidenced-based research, clinical expertise, and best practices to ensure our clients get the care they want and deserve. We will always do our best to help maximize and foster the ever-special connection between the brain and body.


About the Author: Sean Crowell, MS, OTR/L, a licensed occupational therapist at BRAINS, works with children and adolescents in their two biggest life occupations; play and learning. Sean believes that movement is the key to unlocking the potential of the brain and body connection. Sean is an Air Force veteran and has experience in public school, vocational training center, and acute care rehabilitation environments. 


Hooper, L. (2016). New Coding Requirement for Billing Habilitative Services. American Occupational Therapy Association. Retrieved from: