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Mental Health Occupational Therapy Fellowship Program

About the Program: The James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital Mental Health OT Fellowship Program is dedicated to advancing the knowledge and skills of an OT practitioner pursuing AOTA Board Certification or other specialty certification in OT mental health.

We believe in the development of occupational therapists into highly skilled practitioners through exposure to educational processes with a balance between didactic/academic and experiential/clinical environments.

To provide occupational therapists with the knowledge and abilities to progress their clinical and professional skills in mental health OT in order to become an advanced practitioners by:

  1. Using evidence-based practice when evaluating and providing interventions
  2. Effectively evaluating the outcomes of services delivered
  3. Participating in scholarly activities/opportunities
  4. Engaging in collaborative inter-professional and cross sectoral partnerships
  5. Increasing awareness of the unique occupational needs of veterans and active duty Service Members.

Clinical Training
Clinical training consists of managing a caseload of patients with mental health conditions, one-on-one mentoring sessions with highly experienced clinical staff, as well as development of materials for individual sessions and program enhancement. Fellows will have opportunities to participate in interdisciplinary patient rounds, journal clubs, staff in-service presentations, and group activity development and planning.

The JAHVH Mental Health OT Fellowship Program 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

Goals of the Program
To educate and train a post-professional OT graduate to:

1. Meet the needs of veterans and active-duty Service Members by becoming advanced OT practitioners in the area of mental health OT.

2.  Demonstrate the use of evidence-based outcome measures and advanced clinical reasoning skills by critically assessing and appraising the current literature to guide evaluation and plan of care development that facilitates occupational participation.

3. Demonstrate understanding of the 2020 AOTA ethical principles and specialty specific ethical standards, and their implication into practice.

4.  Demonstrate the ability to access and establish collaborative partnerships with stakeholders to maximize the occupational participation of clients.

5. Participate in scholarly activities such as a quality improvement project and case study development/presentation, that promote lifelong learning.

6.  Exhibit the highest standards of professionalism.

Program Co-Coordinator: Katherine Litman, MOT, OTR/L
Program Co-Coordinator and Primary Mentor: Mary Ann Swartz, OTR/L, BCMH
Primary Mentor: Julieth Williams, OTR/L
Primary Mentor: Amy Kimball-Carpenter, OTR/L

*This program is currently under Candidacy Approval Status with AOTA and is pending approval by the Fellowship Program Review Committee.

** Health Professions Trainees (HPTs) are appointed as temporary employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs. As such, HPTs are subject to laws, policies, and guidelines posted for VA staff members.  There are infrequent times in which this guidance can change during a training year which may create new requirements or responsibilities for HPTs.  If employment requirements change during the course of a training year, HPTs will be notified of the change and impact as soon as possible and options provided. The VA Training Director for your profession will provide you with the information you need to understand the requirement and reasons for the requirement in timely manner.

How to Apply

To apply please email the following documents by April 30th  

  1. Completed Application for Health Professions Trainees (see link below)
  2. Resume
  3. One-page essay explaining why a fellowship is important to you and why you chose the VA as a fellowship site
  4. Two letters of reference (may be included in your electronic application submission and do not need to be sent separately)
  5. Copy of Valid OT license and NBCOT certificate OR transcripts showing an expected graduation date prior to the start of the fellowship and your scheduled NBCOT test date.

Fellows are employed full-time by the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital for the year-long program. Applicants must be a U.S. citizen that are a graduate of an ACOTE accredited occupational therapy (OT) program and possess a current OT license (any state)/certification prior to the program start date.   

Applicants should be AOTA members and be committed to pursuing Board or Specialty Certification in the specialized area of practice.

The Fellowship will be a paid position and the fellow will be eligible for health benefits, earn annual leave and sick leave, and have paid federal holidays. There are no tuition fees associated with this fellowship.

Download the informational brochure here
Download an Occupational Therapy Fellowship Application

Review Frequently Asked Questions that are linked below.

Interviews will be conducted during the month of May. The Fellowship Program is scheduled to start in late August and end one year later.

Mental Health Fellowship FAQs

  1. Why should I do a fellowship rather than just find a job I’m interested in?

A fellowship will provide post-professional training in a specialized area of practice. Participation in a fellowship will give the fellow specific experience and allow him/her to gain confidence delivering specialized OT services. It will combine didactics, mentorship, and clinical practice in the fellowship area in order to progress the fellow towards becoming an advanced-level clinician. This can increase professional marketability in the future.  

  1. What experience is needed to apply for a fellowship?

No experience is needed. Experience will be gained through participation in the fellowship program. Applicants should have strong interest in the fellowship program and applying for board or specialty certification after completion of program completion.

  1. Do I have to be a new grad to apply for a fellowship?

No. Any licensed occupational therapist can apply for a fellowship experience.  While some applicants are newly licensed OTs, others have some basic experience, or are wanting to change practice areas. Most fellows typically have 0-5 years of experience.

  1. What if my license is in another state?  

The specific state you are licensed in doesn’t matter as long as your meet criteria to apply.

  1. What happens after the year-long fellowship?

The fellow will be considered an experienced clinician in that specialty practice area. This will help when applying for jobs in a specialized practice area that requires experience. The fellow will also be eligible to apply for AOTA Board Certification after 2 years of practice rather than the 3 years that is required for non-fellowship participants. 

  1. Can I apply if I am not yet licensed or have not graduated OT school?

If you are not already licensed, you will need to have a license before you are able to begin the fellowship experience. You do not need to have a license to apply for the fellowship experience. However, acceptance will be contingent upon obtaining a license prior to the fellowship start date.

  1. Will I get a salary/benefits during the fellowship experience?

Yes, the fellow will receive a stipend and health benefits, as well as, accrue paid time off and have paid federal holidays.

  1. Will the didactic work required for the fellowship be completed while at work or in the evenings/weekends after the work day?

There is time built into the fellows weekly schedule to complete didactic work. However, on occasion, there may be work that must be completed outside of regular working hours.

  1. Is housing provided?

No. The fellow will be responsible for finding your own housing. We will gladly provide  recommendations/information about the surrounding areas, if needed.


Mental Health:

  1. What population will the fellow be working with?

The fellow will be working with a mix of active duty service members and veterans. Ages of the population generally range from 21-75. A vast majority of the clients will be fully independent with ADLs and IADLs. However, the fellows will spend 1 month  working in a traditional rehab setting with patients with ADL/IADL deficits. Most of the clients will be part of an inpatient program.  Clients  will range from very low to very high level of functioning from a psycho-social standpoint.

2. What mental health diagnoses will I see?

The fellow will see client’s with mental health diagnoses to include anxiety and trauma related disorders, mood disorders, psychotic disorders, substance/behavioral related addictions, chronic pain disorders, sleep disorders, and adjustment disorders.

3. What will I be doing with the clients?

The fellow will provide a combination of individual and small group treatments. Many of the group treatments will focus on life skills  (money management, leisure participation, etc.). Individual treatments, will focus on emotional regulation, coping skills, communication skills, pain management, lifestyle re-design, sexual health, family re-integration, and marriage enrichment.