20 Occupational Therapy Quotes

20 quotes to inspire and guide your occupational therapy practice!

Looking for an occupational therapy quote to share on social media, pin-up in your office, or just refresh your OT spirit? 

These quotes are for you. 

I believe quotes are vital to our profession. We currently have difficulty defining ourselves. We shrink from the bold statements about the core of our practice—that daily tasks are vital to healing.

This is where quotes come in. They give us the language to articulate what we intuit and build our practices on. You can bet that we are not the only ones to have found meaning in daily activities. 

Enjoy! (And feel free to share the images.) 

My Favorite OT Quotes 

The Value of Daily Activities

From Laura Ingalls to Ana Tijoux (a French-Chilean hip-hop artist), assertions of the value of daily activities pop-up across literature and art.

Here's some of my favorites:

It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness.
— Thomas Jefferson, Personal letter to his sister
As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness — just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breathe it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.
— Laura Ingalls Wilder, Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder
I think we live in a world where the most important thing is daily life: sharing a space with your family, making meals, being with your people. It’s not only the idea of privacy, it’s the beauty of the moment, at a time in the world when everything goes really fast - too fast.
— Ana Tijoux
A man’s motive in the small actions of daily life, like resting a moment on his pitchfork in the sun and listening intently, may be the most important thing about that man.
— Haniel Long

This next quote from Joan Didion might need some context. It comes from her memoir about the sudden death of her husband and concurrent illness of her daughter. It is the best articulation I could find of a sentiment that I have encountered from both clients and friends – that daily tasks can serve as anchors in times of grieving and loss.  

I learned to find equal meaning in the repeated rituals of domestic life. Setting the table. Lighting the candles. Building the fire. Cooking. All those soufflés, all that crème caramel, all those daubes and albóndigas and gumbos. Clean sheets, stacks of clean towels, hurricane lamps for storms, enough water and food to see us through whatever geological event came our way. These fragments I have shored against my ruins, were the words that came to mind then. These fragments mattered to me. I believed in them. That I could find meaning in the intensely personal nature of life as a wife and mother did not seem inconsistent with finding meaning in the vast indifference of geology and the test shots.
— Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
Care asserts that as difficult and painful as life can be, it is worth something to be in the present, alive, and doing one’s daily bit.
— Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
— Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
Quote for OTs on the value of daily activities.

Occupational Therapy Treatment

The Mary Reily quote is the most famous quote I could find from an occupational therapist. It is derived from the 1961 Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture, titled "Occupational Therapy Can Be One of The Great Ideas of 20th Century Medicine." The title in itself is an inspiration.

Man, through the use of his hands, as they are energized by mind and will, can influence the state of his own health.
— Mary Reily, OTR, EdD
Tell me and I forget.
Teach me and I remember.
Involve me and I learn.
— Chinese Proverb
You treat a disease: you win, you lose.
You treat a person, I guarantee you win-no matter what the outcome.
— Patch Adams

The Art of Being an Occupational Therapist

I tend to overanalyze the exact language I use in difficult situations. Daily, I wish I had chosen my words differently. The Maya Angelou quote was introduced to me back in college and helps me focus on making people feel cared for. The Eleanor Brownn quotes reminds me to also take time to care for myself.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
— Maya Angelou
Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.
— Eleanor Brownn
Quotes about occupational therapy treatment!

Making Progress

All three quotes emphasize the importance of breaking tasks down into small steps--and then taking things one step at a time. 

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking down complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.
— Mark Twain
You need to be content with small steps. That’s all life is. Small steps that you take every day so when you look back down the road it all adds up and you know you covered some distance.
— Katie Kacvinsky
I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.
— Helen Keller
Helen Keller

The Art of Play

I had to add in this little section on play. Our training gives us a unique perspective into the holistic value of play across the lifespan. I love seeing OTs advocate for play opportunities from infancy through old age

Watching a child makes it obvious that the development of his mind comes through his movements.
— Maria Montessori
You can discover more about a person in a hour of play than a year of conversation.
— Plato

Quotes from the Early Years of OT

These gems were found during my research for my post "10 Amazing Moments in the History of OT." 

The association is a responsible, incorporated body with officers of large experience, and active committees encouraging research, collecting data and recommending standards. It seems reasonable to assert that here is a work of national importance, a human reclamation service touching vitally on matters of vast social and economic consequence. Mere encouragement, even placement in industry cannot restore men and women who have not learned through careful bedside training how to use their disabled bodies. The association is literally helping the helpless to help themselves.
— Herbert Hall, From a 1922 editorial on the purpose of the AOTA
In your chosen field, a part of the noblest work of man– the care and relief of weak and suffering humanity– may you realize in increasing measure the value of certain spiritual things which are the making of life, but which we call by many common names. Kindness, humanity, decency, honor, good faith– to give these up under any circumstances would be a greater loss than any defeat, or even death itself.
— Thomas Bessell Kidner, from a 1929 OT graduation speech
Reverently and earnestly do I pledge my whole-hearted services in aiding those in my care.

To this end that my work for the sick may be successful, I will strive for greater knowledge, skill, and understanding in the discharge of my duties in whatsoever position I may find myself.

I solemnly declare I will hold and keep whatever I may learn of the lives of sick.

I acknowledge the dignity of the cure of disease and the safe-guarding of human health, in which no act is menial or inglorious.

I will walk in up-right faithfulness and obedience to those under whose guidance I am to work, and I ask for patience, kindliness and strength in the holy ministry to broken minds and bodies.
— AOTA Pledge, adopted 1926

I would love to keep adding to this compilation over time! If you have any quotes that you have inspired your occupational therapy practice, please share!