History of the COPM

In 1980, the Department of National Health and Welfare (now Health Canada) and the Canadian Occupational Therapists (CAOT) initiated a task force to develop quality assurance guidelines for the practice of occupational therapy in Canada.

The task force completed this work and also recommended that an outcome measure be developed for occupational therapy. In September 1988, the National Health Research Development Program and the Canadian Occupational Therapy Foundation jointly funded a project to develop an outcome measure of occupational performance.

The specifications for the project stated that the outcome measure should:

  • focus on performance in self-care, productivity, and leisure as the primary outcome;
  • consider the client’s environment, developmental stage, life roles, and motivation;
  • be sensitive to clinical change relevant to occupational therapy goals;
  • not be diagnosis specific;
  • be usable in terms of format, administration, time, ease of scoring, client acceptability, and be able to be scored numerically;
  • incorporate measurement properties of reliability, responsiveness, and validity.

After a review of outcome measures currently in use, our research group concluded that no available measure met all the criteria. Work therefore began to develop a new measure – the result was the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM). The COPM used a unique, individualized approach to enable persons to identify every day activities that they wanted, needed, or were expected to do but were having challenges in doing them. The COPM measures change in performance and satisfaction in these activities over time.

The first edition of the COPM was published by CAOT in 1991. Since that time, there have been five editions of the COPM measure and manual. The measure has been translated into over 35 languages and is used in over 40 countries. By the 20th anniversary of its publication, over 250 articles had been published featuring the COPM. The instrument continues to be an important clinical and research tool; each year many new publications using the COPM as an outcome measure emerge.