A survey of 63 Australian occupational therapists working in youth mental health
The purpose of this study was to describe the demographic and employment characteristics of Australian occupational therapists working in youth mental health and explore the relationship between these characteristics and the occupational therapist's role. Sixty-three occupational therapists completed a postal survey during 2006-2007. Numerical data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and qualitative data were analyzed using thematic analysis. The majority (86%) of participants were female, with a mean age of 31.8 years. Over half of the participants were employed as occupational therapists (60%). While most participants reported less than five years experience working with young people (92.5%), thirty-nine participants (61.9%) expressed optimism about the future of occupational therapy in youth mental health. Factors such as funding, staff retention, support, training, and attitudes surrounding professional roles were identified as barriers to role expansion. Occupational therapists work in a range of mental health settings that provide services to young people. Data suggest that occupational therapists are optimistic about working in this field; however, they have limited resources to guide their practice and assist in developing and maintaining professional identity. Study data reveal a need to overcome the funding and professional barriers that currently affect the role of the occupational therapist in youth mental health. Expansionof the occupational therapist's role in youth mental health would be advantageous to both the profession of occupational therapy and the multidisciplinary team.