Document Type (Journals)

Educational Innovations


Despite the high number of individuals living with severe mental illness and the evidence to support effective interventions, only a small percentage of occupational therapy practitioners work in community mental health settings. To address the need for more occupational therapists in this area of practice, schools must provide educational experiences that facilitate interactions with individuals experiencing severe mental illness to increase students’ competence with this population. The Washington University Program in Occupational Therapy fosters students’ clinical reasoning skills throughout a two semester case-based learning course. For the community mental health module at the end of the 2nd semester, the program partnered with two local community agencies to provide an opportunity for students to work with clients experiencing severe mental illness. Students administered assessments, planned and implemented interventions, and completed documentation. Following the experience, students reported increased ability to facilitate interventions and adapt to client needs and clients reported an increase in independent living skills. This paper will describe the development of the course module, collaboration between the academic institution and community based agencies, and student learning outcomes and feedback. A case study illustrates the benefits for one client participant.


Monica S. Perlmutter, OTD, OTR/L, SCLV, FAOTA has a doctorate in occupational therapy, and is an associate professor at the Program in Occupational Therapy at Washington University in St. Louis. She has been a faculty member for 22 years and also specializes in low vision rehabilitation. Quinn P. Tyminski, MSOT, OTR/L is the Clinical Director at Peter & Paul Community Services, a nonprofit specializing in services to combat homelessness. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in occupational therapy at Saint Louis University’s School of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declarations of interest.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.