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Advisory Committee Chair

Retta Evans

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Education


Service-learning is a pedagogical approach that allows occupational therapy students to engage in experiential learning with individuals who have mental illness. Perceptions of individuals with mental illness are influenced by factors such as societal stigma. Stigma is present among allied health professionals and students, including occupational therapy students, which may influence provision of care. In order to assess occupational therapy students’ level of comfort with the mental health population, this study used a convergent mixed methods approach to evaluate how students’ personal beliefs and self-efficacy changed after a service-learning experience at a homeless shelter. The study explored occupational therapy students’ perceptions of individuals with mental illness prior to and after the service-learning experience through the collection and analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data. The results of this study suggest that service-learning experiences with individuals who have mental illness increase comfort, influence personal beliefs and increase self-efficacy in occupational therapy students. More research is need-ed to elucidate how perceptions related to mental illness are formed, to what extent cognitive factors play a role in formation of these perceptions. Additionally, implications for educational programs include integration of service-learning and other experiential learn-ing experiences are recommended to address occupational therapy students’ ability to have less anxiety and more confidence when interacting with individuals who have mental illness.

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