Contemporary Practice Patterns and Trends of Mental Health Occupational Therapists in California

Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy


Occupational Therapy

Department or Program Chair

Ruth Ramsey, EdD, OTR/L

Thesis Advisor

Ruth Ramsey, EdD, OTR/L


Occupational therapists work in an interdisciplinary team of mental health professionals to deliver client-centered treatment to persons with severe mental illness. However, there is limited current research on the role of occupational therapy in mental health (Duffy & Nolan. 2005).

Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate current practice patterns and trends of mental health occupational therapists in California. Forty-nine mental health occupational therapists were surveyed about assessments, interventions, settings, patient populations, and perceptions of their work. Results showed that the majority of respondents were older Caucasian females holding a masters degree and practicing over 11 years as mental health occupational therapists. The most frequently used assessments were the Interest Checklist, the Kohlman Evaluation of Living Skills, and the Allen Cognitive Level Screen. Primary treatment topics were anger and stress management, mainly presented in group format for clients with mood disorders, substance abuse, and schizophrenia/psychotic disorders. Respondents expressed concerns about a lack of mental health emphasis in occupational therapy academic programs, lack of funding and reimbursement options in practice settings, and the need for more advocacy, evidenced-based practice, and leadership in mental health occupational therapy.

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