Occupational Therapy Interventions for Individuals with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Returning to Work: A Systematic Review

Date of Award


Document Status

Open Access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Occupational Therapy (M.S.)


Occupational Therapy


Objective: To determine the interventions used by occupational therapists to facilitate individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder in returning to work. Also, the effectiveness of these interventions will be examined.

Methods: The researchers reviewed three scholarly databases in search of articles related to clients returning to work as a result of occupational therapy treatment. Three key terms were used in this search. The key term “posttraumatic stress disorder” was also entered in the forms “post traumatic stress disorder,” “post-traumatic stress disorder,” and “PTSD.” The two other key terms were “occupational therapy” and “work.” Articles were then eliminated based on inclusion and exclusion criteria. Articles included were human studies of adults ages 18 years or older who met the DSM-IV-TR criteria for PTSD. The participants of chosen studies were attempting to return to work after diagnosis, and at least one intervention was implemented by an occupational therapist. Once the articles were chosen, the researchers extracted relevant criteria.

Results: Six articles were chosen to include in the systematic review. Each article described a different occupational therapy intervention with some small similarities. Interventions found include trauma-focused group therapy, sensory modulation, work-simulation activities, exposure therapy, writing and performing music, physical exercise, and stress management. The study participants varied from one to upwards of 3,000 individuals. None of the articles included statistical evidence to determine intervention effectiveness.

Conclusions: Occupational therapists are using multiple intervention strategies to treat individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder. However, the effectiveness of these interventions cannot be determined due to small sample sizes and lack of statistical evidence. Along with a general need for further research in this area, occupational therapists must include statistical data within the studies to increase generalizability of the research.

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