Rehabilitative vs Habilitative Therapy: Key Differences and Similarities

Rehabilitative vs habilitative therapy: understand the key differences and similarities, and how different therapy specialties approach them.
An Occupational Therapist Works With A Patient. Illustrating The Topic: &Quot;Rehabilitative Vs Habilitative Therapy&Quot;

Rehabilitative and habilitative therapies are closely related. In fact, they may seem identical to most people outside of the healthcare industry! However, despite their similarities, their unique applications set them apart in significant ways.

Join us as we discuss the key differences between rehabilitative vs habilitative therapy, as well as how different therapy specialties may approach these treatments!

What’s the Difference Between Rehabilitative vs Habilitative Therapy?

What is rehabilitative therapy?

Rehabilitative therapy techniques help restore skill and function after an injury, illness, or surgery. It may also help treat and manage the symptoms of a health condition that impacts the patient’s quality of life.

What is habilitative therapy?

On the flip side, habilitative therapy can be viewed as preventive care, such as fall and injury prevention for the elderly. Other examples include preparing for an upcoming sports event or helping develop delayed skills in a child to prepare them for interacting with their peers.

Habilitative and Rehabilitative Types Of Therapy

When people think of rehabilitation, four popular therapy specialties are likely to come to mind: physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT), speech-language pathology (SLP), and applied behavioral analysis (ABA). Depending on the therapy and rehab provider’s objectives, each specialty can be further classified into rehabilitative or habilitative.

Physical Therapy 

Also known as physiotherapy, physical therapy works to help restore, improve, or maintain movement and function. In almost all cases, physical therapists operate under the same framework: physical examination, diagnosis, patient education, and physical intervention and rehabilitation. Situations a physical therapist can assist with may include:

  • Sports preparation. Often falling under the term “sports medicine,” preparing or training for a sport is considered a habilitative form of therapy. This is where the therapist and patient work together to improve physical conditioning through strength, endurance, and safe exercise to ease the client into more demanding physical activity.
  • Fall/Injury prevention. While less strenuous than sports medicine, fall and injury prevention follow a similar process where a physical therapist works with their patient on physical activities to improve balance, endurance, and muscle strength to help lower the risk of falling. This objective is especially vital for the aging population, as one in four older adults fall annually.
  • Surgery/Injury recovery. Utilizing a physical therapist to help overcome the results of an injury or recover from surgery is a form of rehabilitative therapy. Therapists often develop a tailored treatment plan that can include tight muscle stretching, core strengthening, aerobic stability exercises, ice/heat application, and even aquatic therapy.
  • Managing symptoms. Besides injuries and recovery from surgery, rehabilitative efforts can also help manage symptoms of muscular disorders such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), age-related medical problems, stroke, or paralysis, among others.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on improving a patient’s ability to participate in everyday activities as well as improving quality of life. For example, a patient’s sessions with an occupational therapist may focus on attaining independence emotionally, socially, or physically. Cases where an occupational therapist may be able to help, include:

  • Managing symptoms: Similar to physical therapy, occupational therapy is often used to manage the symptoms of health conditions. Typically seen as a habilitative practice, what sets occupational therapy apart is that a therapist may focus more on developing lifestyle goals to aid in resuming a routine after an illness or injury. For example, a patient may want to start cooking for themselves.
  • Return to work/vocational rehab: From advocating for workplace accommodations to forming new habits that facilitate independence, occupational therapy plays a massive role in rehabilitating recovering patients as well as smoothly transitioning them back to work following an injury or illness.
  • Developing delayed skills: Children that are not meeting their developmental milestones often need early intervention to ensure that they are forming habits and skills appropriate for their age group. Occupational therapists work with patients of all ages to help meet those developmental goals.

It is very common for occupational therapists and physical therapists to work together with the same patient. The physical therapist primarily focuses on regaining strength and stability, while the occupational therapist helps resume everyday life as soon as possible. 

Speech-Language Pathology

Also called speech therapy, this field deals with communication and swallowing problems as a result of injury, disorder, or even language learning! Examples of rehabilitative therapy and habilitative therapy in speech-language pathology include:

  • Developing and refining communication skills: Speech therapy helps children and adults improve communication with others — from simple greetings to better navigating social behaviors.
  • Treating/managing speech-language issues as a result of injury: As part of a patient’s recovery from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), an SLP may work with a person to rehabilitate and restore their thinking, speech, and swallowing functions. These problems are common after road accidents or near-drowning incidents that deprive the brain of oxygen.

To help patients attain their goals faster, speech-language pathology employs many specialized low-tech and high-tech treatment methods, including writing, drawing, gestures, pointing, and speech-generating technologies.

Applied Behavioral Analysis

Applied behavior therapy is an interpersonal intervention that uses learning theory principles to help with social skills or developmental delays. As a complex form of therapy that requires a unique approach for every patient, ABA often leverages both rehabilitative and habilitative methods as part of a single treatment plan.

In autism, for example, applied behavioral analysis is used to habilitate children by improving social abilities, transferring skills learned to different environments, reducing negative behaviors, as well as implementing self-control and self-regulation.

On the other hand, a child that may face developmental issues as a result of a physical health condition or injury may use applied behavioral therapy as a way to rehabilitate lost function and skills in addition to keeping up with their peers.

Technologies for Rehabilitative Therapy vs Habilitative Therapy 

From speech-generating apps that help patients develop communication skills to remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) equipment that tracks patient progress, there’s no doubt that technology plays a large role in modern rehabilitative and habilitative services. But what’s behind the scenes?

At the foundation of every therapy and rehab practice is software built to tackle the unique complexities of specialty-specific care. That’s where we come in. Raintree’s all-in-one EMR is designed to optimize all types of therapy and includes therapist-friendly documentation, interactive reporting, as well as advanced billing tools, all of which make therapy easier, more efficient, and engaging!

So are you interested in how Raintree’s flexible and powerful EMR can benefit your therapy practice? Schedule a free discovery call today!

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Blogs are created for educational and informational purposes only.  The information provided does not constitute or, is not intended to constitute, legal or medical advice. When you read this information, visit our website, or access our materials, you are not forming an attorney-client, provider-patient, or other relationship with us.

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