Occupational Adaptation (OA) Model

Developed by: Schkade and Schultz (1992)

The OA model has adaptation at it’s core, which states that occupation is the mechanism through which humans adapt. It is characterized as a normal lifelong process and an outcome. It is important to note that this model promotes adaptation, and not the occupation itself.

Key concepts:

  • The client is the agent of change.
  • Both the person and the environment, in the form of drive for mastery and demand for mastery, establish press for mastery. This press for mastery can result in occupational challenges if the individual fails to perform the occupation to meet their own expectations, or those from the environment.
  • This model states that the person goes through an adaptive response generation cycle in order to adapt. This is done through:
    • Utilizing skills from an existing occupation
    • Modifying the occupation
    • Learning a new occupation
  • Increasing the client’s adaptability is the key outcome. To measure the outcome, we see the change in their adaptive capacity. We evaluate the adaptive response on the basis of effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction. If the client meets the aforementioned criteria, they integrate the adaptive response into their life. As such, the person can learn to change their environment through adaptation.

As occupational therapists, we cannot see the adaptation process. Hence, one has to observe the occupation or hear it from their clients.

OA Model

Occupational Adaptation Model


The only tool for practice that has been developed for the OA model includes:

  • The Relative Mastery Measurement Scale [RMMS] (George, Schkade and Ishee, 2004)
    • Purpose: To measure perceived satisfaction, efficiency and effectiveness of performance in occupations.
    • What is it? Questionnaire
    • How long does it take to administer? ~ 10-15 minutes
    • Where did I see this assessment? Coursework
    • Why would I use this assessment in my practice? This is a quick tool to gain an understanding of client’s perceptions on their performance in (an) occupation(s).


The therapeutic intervention consists of the following five questions:

  • Question 1: What do you need to do and who says so?
  • Question 2: What would you do when you ace with a challenge like this?
  • Question 3: How do you know if the adaptation is working and what might you fo to modify it?
  • Question 4: Are there other options to respond to this situation? If so, what are they?
  • Question 5: What will happen the next time you face a similar situation?

Critique of the model: Focuses heavily on the person. However, this can be an advantage, as you can’t always re-engineer the environment around you.