The purpose of this study was to research and analyze the influencing factors that have led occupational therapy further away from mental health practice. The following research questions were used as a basis to analyze the shift of the OT profession away from mental health:
1. To what extent are education requirements and practices changing the focus of occupational therapy?
2. To what extent are public or occupational therapy student perceptions of mental illness affecting the use of occupational therapy as a therapeutic modality?
3. To what extent are there incentives or disincentives that have led occupational therapists to choose other fields of practice?
4. To what extent are current mental health policies changing the use of occupational therapy in treatment for the mentally ill?
5. To what extent are current insurance systems affecting the use of occupational therapy in treating the mentally ill?
Occupational therapy’s roots were founded with a strong background in mental health practice. Since the 1970’s the profession has been documenting the declining number of OTs who are choosing to practice in mental health. It was concluded from the information examined that all of the areas cited in the research questions had some influence on occupational therapy practice, some more than others. It was found that education and fieldwork experiences had a great influence on the choice of practice area and that public and student perceptions of mental illness also had a great influence on the choice to go into mental health practice. The incentives and disincentives researched were found to have some affect on practice area, but are in need of further study as the effects were highly subjective. It was also found that current mental health policies and insurance systems affected practice, 1) by adding to an occupational therapy practitioner’s responsibility to keep ahead in the field; 2) changing the limits of practice by either expanding the boundaries or contracting them, and 3) by providing or restricting funding to the occupational therapist.