Ergotherapist – a New Profession in Ukraine

The notion of “ergotherapy” or “occupational therapy” appeared in literature in early 20th Century; The roots of the profession are situated in the 19th Century within the humanistic thinking. The development of the profession started in psychiatrics. Since the beginning of the 20th Century the profession also developed in the United States.  After the polio epidemic in 1916 and World War I & II, a great amount of working-age people who needed rehabilitation after combat operations. These people needed to be taught again to perform activities of daily living. They also needed support for social adaptation and psychosocial issues to enable participation in their social context with family and friends.

Ergotherapy used to be identified as “labor therapy”, although it is one of the types of ergotherapy aimed at rehabilitation of patient’s professional skills, which is done at patient’s workplace and must be properly paid for by the employer.

In 1952  the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) was established and recognized by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1963.

In 2020 it enlisted 101 representative associations from around the world.

Ergotherapists work in acute, sub-acute rehabilitation units, geriatric homes, rehabilitation centers, at patients’ homes, regular schools and school for special needs, services for people with visual impairment, institutions for children, adolescents, adults, work guidance services, etc.  

In Ukraine, ergotherapy, as an individual specialty, has appeared recently. By the Decree of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine № 2331 of 13.12.2018, amendments to the professions qualifications reference book (Issue 78 “Health Protection”) were made, in which tasks and obligations of ergotherapists as well as their qualification requirements are stated. Moreover, by the Decree of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, № 668 of March 25, 2019, new positions of an ergotherapist and ergotherapist’s assistant have been included to the list of specialists in the field of health protection.

At the same time, another important stage of establishment and development of ergoptherapy in Ukraine is adoption and implementation of the Standard of higher education of Ukraine: first (bachelor’s) level, field 22 “Health protection”, specialty 227 “Physical therapy, ergotherapy” by the Decree of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, № 1419. 

The Ministry of Health of Ukraine recommended to engage students of “physical rehabilitation” and “physical therapy” specialties in practical studies in hospitals of Ukraine, in which ergotherapy rooms are being currently opened.  

Occupational therapy is a client-centered health profession concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement. (Based on definition WFOT, 2020)

The occupational therapist works towards an optimal quality of life of the individual client focused on autonomy, participation, self-care, work/training, social relations and/or leisure time. The core of the occupational therapy practice is based on a dialogue-focused collaboration with the client and the client system based on an empowering, holistic attitude.

Ergotherapy’s goal is both rehabilitation of body functions and creation of quality, worthy conditions for life, independent execution of everyday tasks, adaptation of the environment for people with special needs, and assurance of possibility to restore their labor skills and provide social adaptation for patients with special needs.

Ergotherapy is an inter-disciplinary profession. They collaborate in a team with Physicians, psychologists, physical therapists, speech therapists, social workers, nurses, …

Also, ergotherapists are often identified as physical therapists, although fields of their activity are different. Physical therapists focus on body functions and structures; ergotherapists focus on activities and participation.

Individual approach to every patient is peculiar to ergotherapist’s job. At first, ergotherapists identify together with the patient problems in daily living and set goals. Based on this they design an individual program. In order to assure successful implementation of the individual program, ergotherapists closely cooperate not only with patients and medical staff, but also with patients’ relatives and guardians.

Ukrainian association of ergotherapists (USET) was established for the implementation and development of ergotherapy in Ukraine. Its aim is to enter World Federation of Occupational Therapists on the rights of full member (head of association - Olga Mangusheva). With assistance from WFOT, an International Scientific Conference “Ergotherapy: new profession for modern rehabilitation system in Ukraine” was held on October 4-5, 2019 in Ukraine, at National University of Ukraine on Physical Education and Sport.

In fact, after the profession of an ergotherapist has been officially recognized in Ukraine, under auspices of WFOT within the framework of common WFOT project - Ukraine The Occupational Therapy Faculty and Curriculum Development Project, training of teachers from higher educational establishment was started. These teachers will promote development of the required vocational competences of students.  Due to this certified educational course that lasted from April 16 to October 14, 2018, several teachers from Ukrainian higher educational establishments, including senior teacher from the department of physical therapy, ergotherapy of Khmelnytskyi National University Natalya Voliyeva, obtained the right to teach ergotherapy in higher educational establishments of Ukraine.  


A consistent development of ergotherapy in Ukraine is an opportunity for academic staff of the department of physical therapy, ergotherapy of three Ukrainian universities (Drohobych State Pedagogical University of Ivan Franko, Khmelnytskyi National University, Prydniprovsky State Academy of Physical Culture and Sports) together with VIVES University of Applied Sciences (Belgium) and Polytechnic Institute of Porto (Portugal) to take part in the international project “UKROTHE – Ergotherapy curriculum development in Ukraine” implemented by the Program of EU funding: Erasmus+: КА2 CBHE. Project’s general aim is to expand potential of ergotherapy in Ukraine via implementation of a new bachelor’s degree curriculum of training of ergotherapists in higher educational establishments that meets WFOT’s basic standards.