Nielsen, Sarah Kaye; Ph.D.
Program of Education
College of Human Development and Education; North Dakota State University
A Mixed-Methods Study Examining the Effectiveness of Psychosocial Occupational Therapy Preparation for Therapists Working With Children in Schools
Major Professor: Dr. Kathy Enger
This mixed-methods research study was conducted for the purpose of examining school-based occupational therapists’ child psychosocial knowledge and attitudes, along with how therapists developed this knowledge and attitudes. Using a phenomenological qualitative approach, the study addressed the following broad research question: What meaning do school-based occupational therapists give to their experience in developing child psychosocial knowledge? Using a quantitative approach, a survey instrument was used to answer the following questions: (a) What level of child psychosocial knowledge and attitudes do school-based occupational therapists possess? (b) How do the following variables impact child psychosocial knowledge and attitudes; (1) level of education, (2) academic course content, (3) participation in mental health fieldwork, (4) application of psychosocial knowledge in non-mental health fieldwork, (5) professional practice experiences, and (6) continuing education experiences.
Snowball sampling was used to select 11 school-based occupational therapists for the phenomenological portion of the design. Data were analyzed using Giorgi and Giorgi’s (2008) method of phenomenological analysis. Random sampling was used to select 1,000 school-based therapists who were mailed the Occupational Therapy Child Mental Health Questionnaire based upon The Teacher Mental Health Opinion Inventory (Morris, 2002). The response was N = 630. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and analysis of association.
Using the mixed-methods triangulation convergence model, where both quantitative and qualitative data were collected at the same time and the results converged during interpretation by comparing and contrasting them, the following conclusions were made: (a) school-based occupational therapists possess and use child psychosocial knowledge; however, they do not believe it is sufficient; (b) school-based occupational therapists have a difficult time articulating psychosocial knowledge; however, through case descriptions they are able to give many examples of psychosocial knowledge they use in practice; (c) school-based occupational therapists believe that holistic, occupation-based, and client-centered practice, along with additional psychosocial intervention strategies, help them maintain a positive attitude toward children with emotional disturbance; (d) school-based occupational therapists experience tension when attempting to apply their holistic, occupation-based, and client-centered practice in an environment that is typically focused on students changing to meet the environmental demands; (e) due to the constraints of the educational system and the IEP, school-based occupational therapists practice holistically by incorporating psychosocial knowledge in a hidden fashion; (f) school-based occupational therapists believe that mental health fieldwork and rich experiences with individuals who have mental illness is important to developing a comfort level with people who have mental illness; (g) school-based occupational therapists do not readily connect the learning from adult mental health fieldwork that they apply in their school-based practices.