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Tips for Finding an Occupational Therapist (OT)

Finding an OT who works with adults with sensory differences can be challenging. Here are some tips and resources to *hopefully* make it less so.


What to Look for?


Historically, sensory-based OT has been something only pediatric (children specialist) OTs have been trained in. OT is a wide field, with many specialty areas, similar to other medical professions (doctors, dentists, nurses, physical therapists). Not even all pediatric OTs specialize in sensory-based treatment approaches. Until recently, mental health OTs (those who specialize in supporting individuals in mental health treatment programs and facilities) have not gotten much training or experience in addressing life-long ("developmental") sensory-based differences. They have traditionally put more of an emphasis on supportive daily living skills and leisure exploration, which are no doubt valuable for many individuals in mental health recovery. But for those with sensory processing differences, these approaches overlook an important factor in diminished functioning and quality of life (sensory-based challenges).


This has created a practice gap where a growing number of OTs are beginning to explore: addressing the sensory-based differences of teens and adults. For the time being, finding those OTs can be quite challenging. So we recommend starting your search by casting your research net wider. Many pediatric OTs are rising to the challenge of working with teens and adults, and that is often a good place to start your search.




Where to Look?


There's no universal right answer to this question. It will depend a lot on:

  1. Where you are located,

  2. What level of support you can financially access (not all therapists accept insurance, and some therapists will work with you on a consultation or coaching basis private pay basis regardless of where you're located), and

  3. Whether virtual therapy is a viable option for you or not.

That said, here are a some places you can start your search:

Where to look in the US (& Internationally):

  • STAR Institute Treatment Directory - Database of providers who have been trained in (as indicated by "Mentorship" Levels 1 & 2 and/or Levels 1 & 2 "Proficiency Certification" on their listing) or claim to follow the STAR Institute for SPD treatment model. You can search by:

    • Provider name,

    • Location,

    • STAR Institute training level, and

    • Provider type:

      • Occupational Therapist,

      • OT Clinic,

      • Physical Therapist,

      • Physician,

      • Mental Health Professional,

      • Speech Language Pathologist,

      • Community Resource,

      • Educator,

      • Eye Care Professional,

      • Dentist

    • Note: There's a "Works with Adults" filter option that providers can select when signing up for the directory, BUT, we recommend you don't rule out providers who haven't selected it (or trust it's accurate for those who have selected it)

  • CLASI Certified Providers Directory - Database of providers who have completed the CLASI Certificate in Ayres Sensory Integration (SI) program (one option for post-professional training for treating sensory differences). You can search by:

    • Provider name,

    • Location, and

    • Provider type:

      • Occupational Therapist,

      • Physical Therapist,

      • Speech Therapist,

      • Speech Language Pathologist,

      • SLP (Speech Therapist), or

      • Other

  • USC Chan SI Certification Directory - Database of providers who have completed USC Chan's Sensory Integration Continuing Education (CE) Certificate program (another post-professional training option for treating sensory differences). You can search by:

    • Provider name,

    • Location,

    • Provider type:

      • Occupational Therapist,

      • Physical Therapist,

      • Speech Language Pathologist, and

    • Special topics training:

      • Special Topics with SI Intervention

      • Sensory-Based Feeding and Eating Challenges

      • SI for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

      • SI in School-Based Settings

      • SI and Early Intervention (for children ages 0-3)

  • Your insurance directory (to find OTs who are in-network with your insurance) - These databases typically do NOT indicate whether an OT specializes in or is qualified to address sensory differences. We recommend you try to look up their websites or otherwise researching their practice emphasis before pursuing.

  • Google (or other search engine) search for "Sensory occupational therapy near me" (requires you to enable browser location permission for it to work). Alternatively, you can do a map search for "Sensory occupational therapy near" [insert any location information you want - zip code, city name, state, or country]

  • Sensory Smart Parent's Tip Page "Finding a Sensory Smart OT" - created and maintained by Nancy Peske, coauthor of the book Raising a Sensory Smart Child.

    • Provides information about what OT is and what kinds of sensory skills an OT might support.

    • Includes links to all state OT associations, NOT actual therapist listings (plus, not all state OT associations maintain provider directories).

Where to look in Australia:

Where to look in the UK/Europe:

Where to look in Canada:



What to Ask?


Your search for an OT will likely need to be done in stages. The first stage is just finding an OT that will work with you. The second stage is determining which OT is likely to be a good fit for you.


Stage 1 questions to ask:

  1. Are you (or anyone at your clinic / in your referral network) willing to work with a teen (or adult) on addressing their sensory needs?

  2. Do you take insurance? - if this is important/necessary for you to access care

  3. Do you offer telehealth? - if this is your preference and/or important/necessary for you to access care

Sample email:

Hello,
I could really use some sensory-based (ideally, OT) support. I am willing to travel in-state for services if treatment could be covered by insurance.
My questions are:
  1. Are you (or anyone at your clinic / in your referral network) willing to work with an adult on addressing their sensory needs?

  2. Do you take insurance?

  3. Do you offer telehealth services?

Thank you!

Stage 2 questions to ask:


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