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The Best Occupational Therapy Books for Mental Health OTs

Updated: Feb 27, 2022

The Best Occupational Therapy Books for Mental Health Occupational Therapists (OTs)

Results are in, the votes have been counted and I am putting on a sparkly dress, to announce the Top 10 Occupational Therapy books that all Occupational Therapists (OTs) MUST read.

I wanted to put this list together because I knew I hadn’t read widely enough in my own area. This has given me a few places to look, so thank you to everyone who took part in the 2020 survey. I was really interested to see what was nominated and absolutely delighted to see what wasn’t. We are going to do the top 9 in no order whatsoever and then the overall winner is at the bottom. Enjoy!

[N.B. Clicking titles/images takes you to Amazon; other shops and online stores are available]

Edited by Jane Clewes and Robert Kirkwood

Diverse roles for Occupational Therapists, Edited by Jane Clewes and Robert Kirkwood

First up...

I’m quite pleased this got through, not least because the chapter in it on ‘Personality Disorder’ is by me. This book has a range of occupational therapists in different mental health positions describing their roles; it’s a great resource for particular areas and for bringing innovation into places we haven’t been before. Colleagues of mine wrote about psychiatric intensive care units (PICUs), Prisons and Eating Disorders - I’m pretty sure at one point we were the most academic OT corridor in the UK. It’s probably due a sequel now, with even more novel roles emerging.


By Linda Finlay

Groupwork In Occupational Therapy, By Linda Finlay

23 years old and still pulling in the votes, this is the oldest book in the list. Written primarily for occupational therapists, 'this text explores the range of group work activities used within occupational therapy practice. Discussing theoretical aspects and practical approaches, this book is an invaluable handbook to those working and studying occupational therapy.'


By Dikaios Sakellariou and Nick Pollard

Occupational Therapies Without Borders: Integrating Justice With Practice, By Dikaios Sakellariou and Nick Pollard

This is a book I hadn’t even heard of before. Apparently this builds on the previous two volumes, offering a window onto occupational therapy practice, theory and ideas, in different cultures and geographies. It emphasises the importance of critically deconstructing and engaging with the broader context of occupation, particularly around how occupational injustices are shaped through political, economic and historical factors.

Centring on the wider social and political aspects of occupation and occupation-based practices, this textbook aims to inspire occupational therapy students and practitioners to include transformational elements into their practice. It also illustrates how occupational therapists from all over the world can affect positive changes, by engaging with political and historical contexts. It could probably do with a chapter on COVID-19, but then I’m sure most books could at the moment…


By Ann Wilcock and Clare Hocking

An Occupational Perspective of Health, By Ann Wilcock and Clare Hocking

4th on the list, another book I hadn’t come across before. Amazon says 'For nearly 20 years, An Occupational Perspective of Health has been a valuable text for health practitioners, with an interest in the impact of what people do throughout their lives. Now available in an updated and much-anticipated Third Edition, this unique text continues the intention of the original publication: it encourages wide-ranging recognition of occupation as a major contributor to all people’s experience of health or illness. It also promotes understanding of how, throughout the world, "population health", as well as individual well-being, is dependent on occupation.' This sounds like a useful message for us to articulate.


By Lucie Duncan, Rayya Ghul and Sarah Mousley

Creating Positive Futures: Solution Focused Recovery from Mental Distress, By Lucie Duncan, Rayya Ghul and Sarah Mousley

Coming in 5th (they are not in order), this is currently going for a much more modest price - and you can let me know whether the Wilcock book is 4 times better. With 5 stars on Amazon 'This is a valuable resource for anybody working in the fields of mental health and disability, regardless of professional discipline, not only occupational therapists but psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and nurses.' It shows a respectful, structured and realistically optimistic way of talking with troubled people, so that their own strengths and resources are highlighted. This book introduces their Solution Focused Measure of Occupational Function. It is clearly written, almost jargon-free and contains many useful case-examples and suggestions for generative questions. The authors have avoided it becoming too much of a therapy-by-numbers ‘cook-book’.


By Elizabeth A. Townsend and Helene J. Polatajko

Enabling Occupation II: Advancing an Occupational Therapy Vision for Health, Well-being & Justice Through Occupation, By Elizabeth A. Townsend and Helene J. Polatajko

For its price, I’d expect this book to assess my clients for me. It’s not easy to find a synopsis for this book (if someone sends me one I’ll add it to the article), but what I have learned is: 'As a practitioner, Section I provides you with the opportunity to reflect on the implications that embracing occupation as our core domain of concern has for your practice. The Section promotes an appreciation of the full breadth of human occupation and facilitates the adoption of an occupational perspective in viewing the world. With the Section, you are encouraged to adopt an occupational perspective to guide your practice - be it as a clinician, educator, researcher, administrator, manager, or consultant. You will immerse yourself in language frameworks and models, that will help to organise your thoughts and articulate your understanding of occupation and to explore the learnings that occupational science can shed on your understanding and appreciation of occupation.'


By Edward Duncan

Foundations for Practice in Occupational Therapy, By Edward Duncan

7th on the list... Eddie was one of my first supervisors, back in the days when I was young and knew nothing. Now that I’m old and know less it’s good to see this scoring so well. 'The internationally acclaimed Foundations for Practice in Occupational Therapy continues to provide a practical reference tool, which is both an indispensable guide to undergraduates and a practical reference tool for clinicians, in the application of models and theories to practice. Underlining the importance and clinical relevance of theory to practice, the text provides an excellent introduction to the theoretical basis of occupational therapy.'


Edited by Thelma Sumsion

Client-Centred Practice in Occupational Therapy: A Guide to Implementation, Edited by Thelma Sumsion

At 8th in the list, the editor is one of my undergraduate lecturers, who once chided me for napping during a talk. 'Directed primarily towards health care professionals outside of the United States, Client-Centered Practice in Occupational Therapy continues to be the only book that provides the reader with both the theoretical underpinnings of client-centred practice as well as guidance on the practical application of this approach.' Who knows what authoritarian practices will take place in the USA without a book like this to guide them?


By Renee R. Taylor

Kielhofner's Model of Human Occupation, By Renee R. Taylor

Nearly there… This book was one of the two that dominated the field. 'Updated throughout with new research, the 5th Edition of MOHO offers a complete presentation of the most widely used model in occupational therapy today. In the new edition, author Renee Taylor preserves Dr. Kielhofner's original voice and contributions, while updating MOHO concepts and their uses in today's practice environment. Throughout the book, readers will see a client-centred approach used to explore what motivates each individual, how they select occupations and establish everyday routines - and how environment influences occupational behaviour. The 5th Edition continues to deliver the latest in MOHO theory, research and application to practice and adds much that is new, including new case studies - that show how MOHO can address the real-life issues depicted - and expanded resources, that enhance teaching and learning.' This probably influences my OT clinical reasoning more than any other profession-specific book I’ve read.


And the moment you have all been waiting for…

...will have to wait a little longer! I asked people what book wasn’t shortlisted but should have been; I was told the missing gem was:

By Sue Parkinson

It is 'underpinned by the conceptual framework of the Model of Human Occupation and will provide an invaluable tool to practitioners and also create a platform for research. Recovery Through Activity:

Recovery Through Activity, By Sue Parkinson
  • enables service users to recognise the long-term benefits of occupational participation, by exploring the value of a range of activities

  • provides occupational therapists with a valuable tool to support the use of their core skills

  • provides comprehensive evidence regarding the value of activity, along with a wealth of resources to support implementation of an occupation-focused intervention

  • helps to refocus the practice of occupational therapy in mental health on occupation

  • supports occupational therapy practitioners to engage in their core skills and enhance the quality of service user care in mental health'


Finally, we have the winner:

Edited by Wendy Bryant

Creek's Occupational Therapy and Mental Health, Edited by Wendy Bryant

With more votes than any other and five times the votes of the lowest scoring finalist, this is another ‘go-to' book for me. This 'seminal textbook for occupational therapy students and practitioners has retained the comprehensive detail of previous editions with significant updates, including the recovery approach informed by a social perspective. Emerging settings for practice are explored and many more service users have been involved as authors. Occupational Therapy and Mental Health is essential reading for students and practitioners across all areas of health and/or social care, in statutory, private or third (voluntary) sectors, and in institutional and community-based settings.'


If you want to read a non-occupational therapy mental health book, The Body Keeps The Score annihilated the competition... And that is the result of the survey. You also told me you are interested in an occupational therapy TED-style event, so I might see if I can make that happen.

Go forth and read these books! Very little is written about some of them, so add to the reviews and tell people what you thought. Before you smash out your money on hard copies of these, it might be worth considering joining your country's professional body; some of these are available as free e-books to members. If anyone wants to send me a copy of any of these, I’m happy to review it... I hope this was useful. Happy reading.

Keir Harding Occupational Therapist


Keir provides supervision and thinking space around mental health provision, particularly those viewed as being high risk. He is contactable via Beam Consultancy and is active on Twitter (@keirwales) and Facebook (Keir Harding OT).


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Oct 25, 2023

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Gavin Symes
Gavin Symes
Feb 10, 2021

Thanks so much for sharing this list. I'm in need of continuning my life long quest to become the best OT possible through further reading of good quality books. Also great to see one of my OT lecturers (Jon Fieldhouse) listed as an editor of 'Creek's Occupational Therapy and Mental Health E-Book (Occupational Therapy Essentials)'.


Charmi Shah
Charmi Shah
Jan 31, 2021

Thank you for sharing this🙏

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