Relevant OT/OS Research Updates, November 2018

We are thrilled to announce the recent publication of a study by one of the network’s members, Nadine Blankvoort, along with their co-authors!

Nadine is a CAOT-registered OT and PhD Researcher in the area of Refugee Integration programs in the Netherlands.

This qualitative study is quite innovative and unique in that the four co-authors in addition to Nadine, are individuals with a refugee background. We have not seen any similar OT or OS studies as of yet, that were so inclusive of participants with a refugee background. Although there are a number of studies that explore the meaning of occupational engagement to newcomers, it is relatively rare in the literature to find studies that specifically investigate the OT role and OT-specific interventions among refugee populations. We are so pleased to see this valuable contribution to the literature. Thank you Nadine, for your work and for the work of your co-authors! The citation and abstract is as follows:

Abstract: Theoretical works in occupational therapy and occupational science have explored the refugee experience through an occupational lens, and explored the potential for occupational therapy in this field. Currently, there exists a lack of literature which includes refugees in these explorations. Recognising the western-bias present within occupational therapy, it is important that refugees are part of a co-produced response. This article presents findings of a workshop held in the Netherlands, where four co-authors with a refugee background and one occupational therapist explored the definition of occupational therapy, the role it could have with refugees, and what is required from the profession to take on this role. Reflections suggest that occupational therapy has the potential to be a connector, matchmaker and translator, working towards societal participation. To do this, occupational therapists must critically reflect on assumptions embedded in occupational therapy, and must be aware of how structural systems influence participation of refugees.

Nadine Blankvoort was also very recently a speaker at a TedX event with a presentation titled: Two migrants: one is an expat and the other a criminal refugee. Nadine’s presentation is an excellent critical examination of the terminology, discourse, and social messages embedded in Netherlands’ mandatory integration program. You can watch the 8-minute TedX video on YouTube below…

We also want to highlight the publication of a recent quantitative study undertaken by OT Connie Trimboli and co-author. Connie is active with OOFRAS (Occupational Opportunities for Refugees and Asylum Seekers), an international OT network with its roots in Australia.

Connie recently co-authored an article documenting the results of a recent study that involved interviewing 29 OTs and OT students, regarding their interventions with newcomers. Again, it is great to see this type of contribution to the literature!

  • Trimboli, C. & Halliwell, V. (2018). A survey to explore the interventions used by occupational therapists and occupational therapy students with refugees and asylum seekers. World Federation of Occupational Therapists Bulletin, 2, 106-113. You can review a PowerPoint summary of the study online here.

Abstract: The analysis of 29 completed surveys found that respondents spent most time on: documentation, education, and leisure integration. Respondents were also engaging in: education, mental health/counselling, research, community development, mentoring, recreation, and nontraditional occupational therapy interventions. Interventions respondents were not using, but which they thought would be useful were: addressing sexuality, forming support groups, driving assessment and practice, home visits, and self care. Findings from this study shed light on an emerging area of occupational therapy and identifies some of the interventions currently being used with refugees and asylum seekers.


Finally, although it is not OT-specific research, we wanted to bring to your attention a recent Ontario-based study that was recently published in October 2018:

The article’s conclusion indicates that “rates of first contact in the emergency department for youth mental health conditions in Ontario were highest among refugees and recent immigrants to Canada. This reflects poor access to timely mental health care that may be delivered in outpatient settings. Our findings suggest that immigrants face barriers using mental health services from a physician on an outpatient basis, but there is variability within immigrant groups. Better understanding of the barriers and enabling factors that contribute to use of mental health services and access to care are needed, including focusing efforts to reduce stigma and identify mental health problems early, before crises, in particular among refugee and newcomer youth and immigrants from Africa and Central America.”

This study was further highlighted in mainstream media with this Global News article – Immigrant, refugee youth end up in ER for mental health care more than others.


Mental health issues, especially when they reach a crisis point, can cause a significant disruption to meaningful occupational engagement and ultimately, the entire resettlement process and the person’s overall state of well-being. Refugees and recent immigrants may be more vulnerable in these states of crisis, in contrast to other non-newcomer youth, for a variety of reasons.

OTs can contribute to research that investigates barriers and enablers that newcomer youth encounter when in need of outpatient mental health services. OTs can be part of efforts to reduce stigma and identify mental health problems early-on among newcomer youth, and they can also join efforts to support their self-management and recovery process.

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