Date Presented 04/22/2023

There are few publications on mental health simulations in OT programs. This scoping review found that students gained increased knowledge, competence, and confidence in mental health practice skills and enjoyed simulation.

Primary Author and Speaker: Kelly Machnik

Additional Authors and Speakers: Ashley McKnight

Contributing Authors: Meghan Fox, Betsy Williams, Barbara Harvey, Emily Piven

Only 2% of occupational therapists and 2% of occupational therapy assistants work in mental health. There is a behavioral health workforce shortage, and occupational therapy practitioners can fill this gap if they are adequately prepared for mental health practice in their educational programs. The objective of this research was to examine what mental health simulations are being conducted in occupational therapy and occupational therapy assistant programs through a scoping review. We systematically searched 7 databases – CINAHL Complete, PubMed, Web of Science Core Collection, PsycInfo, ERIC, Education Source, and ProQuest Psychology Journals - for articles that included occupational therapy/occupational therapy assistant students, took place in higher education, and had a simulation component with mental health content. A total of 124 non-duplicate articles were retrieved, and 23 underwent full-text review. The final review included 10 studies that met the inclusion criteria. These studies were from the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia. Case studies, simulated patient encounters, role play, and auditory hallucination simulations were the most common types of simulation used. Diagnoses included schizophrenia, dementia, depression, and substance use. In general, students gained increased knowledge, competence, and confidence in mental health practice skills across studies and had improved attitudes toward individuals with mental illness. Students found simulation to be an effective way to obtain these outcomes. Most studies had small sample sizes and there is little research regarding retention of these gains over time. These findings impact higher education practice by providing examples of effective learning strategies to train occupational therapy practitioners in mental health skills and attitudes which is crucial in today’s climate of worsening mental health.


Grant, T., Thomas, Y., Gossman, P., & Berragan, L. (2021). The use of simulation in occupational therapy education: A scoping review. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 68(4), 345-356.

MacKenzie, D. E., Kiepek, N., Picketts, L., Zubriski, S., Landry, K., & Harris, J. (2021). Exploring simulation design for mental health practice preparation: A pilot study with learners and preceptors. The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy, 9(4), 1-17.

Reichl, K., Baird, J. M., Chisholm, D., & Terhorst, L. (2019). Measuring and describing occupational therapists’ perceptions of the impact of high-fidelity, high-technology simulation experiences on performance. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 73(6), 1-8.

Walls, D., Fletcher, T., & Brown, D. (2019). Occupational therapy students’ perceived value of simulated learning experiences. Journal of Allied Health, 48(1), E21-E25.