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Occupational Therapy Mental Health Fellowship Program

The Zablocki VA Medical Center offers a 12-month American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) accredited fellowship of didactic and clinical education. Our fellowship is dedicated to advancing the knowledge and skills of an occupational therapy (OT) practitioner pursuing AOTA Board Certification in mental health occupational therapy.

Zablocki VAMC, AOTA logos


To provide a post-professional clinical and educational experience that will facilitate and accelerate the attainment of advanced knowledge and skills in OT MH practice. In addition, we aim to develop practitioners, who are committed to promoting the optimum health and function of our patients and who will advance the profession of OT through teaching, research and mentored patient care experiences.


Promote the development of mental health OT fellows into exemplary providers of innovative, patient-centered, evidence-based occupational therapy. In addition, we aim to develop practitioners who will advance the profession of OT through teaching, research and mentored patient care experiences.

Program Goals

To provide a post professional, specialty defined (mental health) educational experience to occupational therapists who will: 

  • Acquire knowledge and clinical skills to become advanced practitioners in the field of mental health.
  • Demonstrate advanced clinical expertise and clinical reasoning, performance and interpersonal skills with the goal of improving patient outcomes. 
  • Consistently and effectively utilize current evidence-informed practice throughout the clinical decision-making process of patient care and in providing consultation/education to other members of the team.
  • Exhibit understanding of the AOTA ethical principles and demonstrate professional behaviors in the delivery of skilled occupational therapy services which are consistent with those of an advanced professional in the area of mental health.
  • Participate in the development and execution of scholarly and/or professional activities with a focus in mental health.
  • Appreciate the process of scientific inquiry through participating in clinical research and contributing to the body of knowledge in the field of mental health occupational therapy.
  • Effectively engage in an interdisciplinary approach to care when providing consultation/education on mental health issues in efforts to enhance collaboration, delivery of care and patient outcomes.

Clinical Experiences

The Zablocki VAMC Occupational Therapy Mental Health Fellowship selects one candidate from a pool of applicants annually. The fellow will rotate through two areas of clinical practice: inpatient  acute mental health and residential treatment settings.

Program design is in accordance with the AOTA 2021 standards of continuing competence and fellowship program criteria/guidelines.  The foundation of the program is over 1,400 hours to include didactic and clinical education, mentored service delivery (≥350 hours), and non-mentored service delivery. Additional experiences include, but not limited to:  staff in-services, interdisciplinary care plan development and journal club implementation. The program also focuses on in-depth experience in clinical practice skills, education, and research.


Skills and didactic knowledge described as requirements for advanced clinical practice are included in the curricular modules, didactics and instructional material. The fellow will have the opportunity to advance their skill set through their participation in interdisciplinary meeting/huddles, staff in-services/instruction, program development, group activity discussions/developments, journal clubs and participation in scholarly activity.

The VA has taken care to implement a holistic approach to treatment which provides the fellow with ample opportunity to work alongside many clinical disciplines to support the health and well-being of our Veteran population. Clinical instruction will consist of managing a caseload of patients with mental health conditions, one-on-one mentoring sessions with highly experienced mentor and didactic curriculum/instruction. 

Our curriculum meets AOTA standards and prepares the fellows to meet the particular needs of our patient population. Through specialized learning activities and structured one-on-one mentoring, a fellow can develop strengths and expand on their areas of interest. We place emphasis on individual research/learning and evidence-based practice, in addition to the clinical curriculum.

The ZVAMC Occupational Therapy Mental Health Fellowship will focus on the fellow’s development of knowledge, competency, and advanced practice skills in the following core areas:

  • Advanced Knowledge
  • Reasoning and Performance Skills
  • Ethical Practice Skills
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Scholarly and/or Professional Activities

Program Benefits

  • One-on-one clinical mentoring
  • Opportunity to participate in clinical research
  • Leadership skills development
  • Continuing education opportunities
  • Unique didactic and scholarly experiences
  • Salary and full-time benefits, including paid time off and sick leave

Successful completion of the program will allow fellows eligibility to apply for AOTA Board Certification with three years of practice instead of the typical requisite of five years.

Application Criteria/Process

  • U.S. citizen
  • AOTA member
  • Graduate of an accredited occupational therapy program
  • Passed the NBCOT Board examination
  • Maintain a current CPR certification through the American Heart Association
  • Completed application form including resume/curriculum vitae
  • Three letters of recommendations from individuals who can speak to their clinical skills
  • Current occupational therapy license
  • Evidence of mental health interest and pursuit of additional training/experiences in this area 
  • Not be on probation or under a learning contract at their current facility or program
  • Complete a personal statement using the questions below to guide your response.
    • Essay Question 1:  What is it about an occupational therapy fellowship specific to mental health that is meaningful to you?  
    • Essay Question 2: What do you think the field of occupational therapy needs to enhance mental health services, and how will you become of leader in implementing these changes? 
    • Essay Question 3: Describe some of the characteristics/traits you possess that will make you an ideal group facilitator? 


  • One-year commitment: July 29, 2024 - July 25, 2025
  • Mental health clinical exposure and experiences in inpatient and residential care occupational therapy settings

Dates To Remember

  • Start date for submission of applications: Jan. 1, 2024
  • Application deadline: March 31, 2024
  • Interview days:  April 15-19, 2024
  • Notification date: April 30, 2024
  • Notification of acceptance: May 15, 2024
  • Fellowship start date: July 29, 2024
  • Fellowship end date: July 25, 2025

Application Review

The Fellowship Admissions Committee (program director/coordinator, mentors, department manager/supervisor, university staff) carefully review each application. Applicants are evaluated by the committee based on these criteria:

  • Academic education and degrees obtained
  • Clinical education and/or mentoring experiences
  • Clinical experience
  • Letters of reference

Interview Process

Superior applicants will be chosen to participate in the interview process with members of the Fellowship Admissions Committee. Interview criteria used in assessing the applicant during the interview include the following:

  • Applicant’s presentations
  • Communication/leadership skills
  • Ability to clearly verbalize their goals and objectives
  • Reasons for applying to the fellowship

Following the interview process, members of the Fellowship Admissions Committee will rank their choices and discuss together in person or via teleconference at the end of the interview week. Applicants will be ranked and the top candidate will be notified within a week following the interviews. If an applicant declines or withdraws from consideration, the next applicant on the list will be notified.  Once the position has been filled, letters will be mailed to the remaining candidates notifying them that they have not been selected for the fellowship program.


For more information about the program, contact:

Melissa Ward-Healy

Fellowship Program Coordinator

5000 W. National Ave.

Building 123,  Room E100B

Milwaukee, WI 53295

414-384-2000 ext. 41145