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The Use of Craft in OT- A Brief History

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

Disclaimer: While this article is over 25 years old the knowledge contained is still central to the practice of Occupational therapy and craft used for therapeutic uses.

The use of crafts has been a central concept in occupational therapy since the founding of Occupation therapy.

1900-1920. Occupational therapy during the early 20th century grew from a philosophy known as moral treatment. The basis of moral treatment was "respect for human individuality and a fundamental perception of the individual's need to engage in creative activity in relation of his fellow man." (1, p 223)

1920-1930. During the 1920s occupational therapists actively sought to establish their field as a profession that provided a unique service. They organized occupational therapy educational programs with a major emphasis on the therapeutic use of crafts (2). The use of crafts assisted in the following: strength, coordination, endurance, social aspects, problem solving, decision making, self-esteem development and socialization.

1930-1940 During the Great Depression Occupational Therapy as a profession was impacted by budget cuts and other economic factors. Although journal articles in this period continued to stress the use of crafts in treatment, the focus was on improving strength, coordination, range of motion and other physical factors, with little emphasis on psychological and social aspects of treatment. (4)

1940-1960. The end of World War II brought an end to the depression and a new demand for occupational therapy services. With more people surviving disabling conditions, largely because of new drugs and surgical techniques, the rehabilitation movement grew and occupational therapy became aligned with it. (3, p 235)

1960-Present. The 1960's was a decade of change in which therapists questioned their role and the need for reorganization within the profession (5). Within the area of physical disabilities, therapists became more proficient in the use of various treatment techniques. However, they also seemed to show more concern for the psychological and social aspects of treatment, and many articles stressed the need for quality health care services.


1. Bockoven JS: Legacy of moral treatment-1800's to 1910. American Journal of Occupational Therapy 25: 223-225, 1971

2.Report of the Committee on Teaching Methods. Occupational Therapy Rehab 7: 287- 300, 1928

3. Mosey AC: Involvement in the rehabilitation movement-1942 to 1960. American Journal of Occupational Therapy 25: 234-236,1971

4. Taylor M, Packard D, McNary H, Hickinson LM: Anatomical considerations and technique in using occupations as exercise for orthopedic disabilities. Occupational Therapy Rehab 13: 13-34, 1934

5. Diasio K: The modern era-1960 to 1970 American Journal of Occupational Therapy 1970. 25: 237-242, 1971

Article: Bissell, J. C., & Mailloux, Z. (1981). The Use of Crafts in Occupational Therapy for the Physically Disabled. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 35(6), 369–374. doi: 10.5014/ajot.35.6.369

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