Research Article
Issue Date: March 02, 2020
Published Online: March 09, 2020
Updated: March 18, 2020
Activity- and Occupation-Based Interventions to Support Mental Health, Positive Behavior, and Social Participation for Children and Youth: A Systematic Review
Author Affiliations
  • Susan M. Cahill, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, is Associate Professor and Occupational Therapy Department Chair, MSOT Program, Lewis University, Romeoville, IL; cahillsu@lewisu.edu
  • Brad E. Egan, OTD, PhD, CADC, OTR/L, is Associate Professor and Occupational Therapy Program Site Coordinator, Occupational Therapy Program, Lenoir–Rhyne University, Columbia, SC.
  • Joanna Seber, OTD, OTR/L, is Adjunct Instructor, MSOT Program, Lewis University, Romeoville, IL. At the time of the study, she was a postprofessional OTD student (maiden name Swanton) at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Article Information
Evidence-Based Practice / Mental Health / Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / Rehabilitation, Participation, and Disability / Special Issue
Research Article   |   March 02, 2020
Activity- and Occupation-Based Interventions to Support Mental Health, Positive Behavior, and Social Participation for Children and Youth: A Systematic Review
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, March 2020, Vol. 74, 7402180020. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.038687
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, March 2020, Vol. 74, 7402180020. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.038687
Abstract

Importance: Children and youth are often challenged to maintain well-being, positive behavior, and social participation.

Objective: To identify evidence for occupational therapy interventions for children and youth with and at risk for mental health concerns.

Data Sources: Articles published in English-language peer-reviewed journals between January 2010 and March 2017 identified through searches of MEDLINE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, ERIC, OTseeker, and Cochrane databases.

Study Selection and Data Collection: The methodology in the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses was used to complete the review. Of 5,310 articles screened by title and abstract, 357 were retrieved for full-text review, and 62 met inclusion criteria. Articles describing interventions that were activity or occupation based were included. Conference proceedings, non–peer reviewed publications, dissertations, theses, and presentations were excluded.

Findings: Of the 62 studies included in the review, 20 (32%) were Level I studies, 22 (36%) were Level II studies, and 20 (32%) were Level III studies. Articles were categorized by type: outdoor camps, video and computer games, productive occupations and life skills, meditation, animal-assisted interventions, creative arts, play, sports, and yoga. Moderate to strong evidence supports the use of yoga and sports. Moderate-strength evidence supports the use of play and creative arts. Evidence for the use of animal-assisted interventions, meditation, video and computer games, and productive occupations was of low strength.

Conclusion and Relevance: Substantial evidence exists to support the use of activity- and occupation-based interventions to address the mental health, behavioral, and social participation concerns of children and youth. Occupational therapy practitioners should match the desired outcome of therapy with the appropriate intervention to provide the best and most effective services to their clients.

What This Article Adds: This review provides additional support for the use of activity- and occupation-based interventions (i.e., those that involve active participation) to improve the behavior, social participation, and mental health of children and youth.