Project Development Phase

Faculty Adviser - Steve Park, PhD, OTR/L

Quick Summary:

An elite athlete may expect to incur injuries throughout their career. These injuries may acutely suspend the athlete’s participation in training and competition, or, if significant, cause an athlete to retire from competition. Injury, though an anticipated consequence of elite athletic performance, may be a destabilizing force in an athlete’s life. This destabilization may influence the individual’s current and future ability to engage in meaningful and health-promoting activities. Some former elite athletes adapt to life outside of sport more successfully than others as marked by spending the next chapter of their life pursuing meaningful engagement (ex. Doug Baldwin, NFL; or Ken Griffey Jr., MLB), while others struggle to adapt (ex. Steve Montador, NHL; or Mike Webster, NFL). Extant literature regarding the holistic experience of an athlete’s progression through injury recovery and re-engagement in meaningful activities possess low levels of evidence and lack significant power, therefore limiting the generalizability of evidentiary conclusions. This begs the question: What makes some athletes’ injury-induced transitions out of athletics more successful than others? Occupational therapy  practitioners utilize a distinctive lens of clinical judgement to acknowledge and mediate an individual’s diminished ability to participate in meaningful daily activities to better promote health and well-being which lends an occupational therapist to be uniquely qualified as an academic in this field of questioning. The Model of Human Occupation (MoHO; Keilhofner & Burke, 1980), was created in response to a need for an evidence-based grounding framework by which occupational therapy practitioners could better understand the complexity of a person’s engagement in activities, or occupations, to support the client-centered and shared decision-making process of therapeutic intervention (Taylor & Kielhofner, 2017). By utilizing a multi-dimensional view of engagement it is suggested that each concept and subconcept recognized by MoHO interacts with activity performance heterarchically. This indicates that each concept should be considered when exploring an athlete’s experience of performance, injury, and the subsequent recovery process so that OT practitioners can better identify the complex relationship between the supports and hinderances to the athlete’s return to health-promoting engagement in activities. As such, the purpose of this capstone study is to examine the perspectives of former elite athletes in identifying supports and barriers to re-engagement in health-promoting occupations following a career-ending injury as framed by the Model of Human Occupation.


Kielhfoner, G. & Burke, J. P. (1980). A model of human occupation, part 1. Conceptual framework and content. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 34, 572-581. 

Taylor, R. R., & Kielhofner, G. (2017). Introduction to the model of human occupation. In R.R. Taylor (Ed.), Kielhofner’s model of human occupation: Theory and application (5th ed., pp. 3–10). Wolters Kluwer.

Doctoral Capstone Plan



Level 1 Reflections

A compilation of fieldwork experiences across my first year...

The settings and populations in which I completed my level 1 fieldwork experiences were all vastly different than the areas that initially attracted me to occupational therapy.  In each setting, my concept of the scope of occupational therapy was expanded - I saw the connection between each setting in the underlying epistemology and foundational approach taken by my supervisors.  I was surprised that despite the great differences in the occupations being supported, the population and the environment, many elements remained the same. Many settings utilized similar questions to create a robust occupational profile of the individuals who the occupational therapists serves. In each, the occupational therapists, occupational therapy students and clients found ways to support each other in advocating for occupational justice. 

The majority of settings in which I completed my fieldwork experiences were not typical environments for the delivery of occupational therapy services. For this reason, I am excited for my level II fieldwork experiences. I think my non-traditional experiences will encourage me to be creative in more typical settings which will support me as I continue to develop my clinical competencies and expand my clinical reasoning/decision-making skills. I look forward to becoming more proficient in initial evaluations and assessments across different settings, as this has been a focus in many of the process courses this past year.

Level 1A - School-Based

Mukilteo School District

80 Hours, January 2019

It was an incredible experience to have my first fieldwork experience occur in the school district I attended from kindergarten through grade 12. I was grateful for the incredible transparency of my fieldwork advisers who helped me develop my skills in building rapport with students of all ages. In my observations, it was abundantly clear that the occupational therapists within the district are incredible advocates for the people who they serve.  

Level 1B - Mental Health

York St. John - Converge Program

June 13, 2019 - June 27, 2019

This fieldwork helped me re-explore creativity in learning. I learned how powerful artistic expression can be in self-reflection, growth, and academia.  In this setting, I worked with York St. John students who all experience mental illnesses in York, England to create art and community. It was fascinating to learn more about the NHS - both its benefits and challenges, and to hear from lecturers with York St. John's Masters in Occupational Therapy program about service provision for refugees and asylum seekers and mental health.

Level 1C - Pediatric

Camp Yakety Yak

August 4, 2019 - August 9, 2019

Camp Yakety Yak helped me learn a lot about how to facilitate and support communication and friendship building between children. This experience invites children who are not neurotypically developing to experience a day camp focused on communication, friendship and fun. During this fieldwork, I worked both as a one-on-one support for children who had high medical demands, and as a station assistant where I focused on modifying the environment to support the participation of all children in every activity.

Level 1D - Physical Disability

Aphasia Camp Adventure Weekend

August 22, 2019 - August 25, 2019

Over the Adventure Weekend fieldwork experience, I was paired with a man who is a stroke survivor who experience aphasia, his wife who acts as his caretaker, and a speech and language pathology student. My role over this weekend was to learn how to use supported communication and to encourage the couple with whom I was paired to try new and adapted recreational activities. I learned how to use motivational interviewing skills with individuals who experience aphasia, and how to further adapt leisure activities across a lifespan to make them safe, enticing and fun.





The Influence of Depressive Symptoms on Psychological Well-Being and Health Behaviors in First-Year College Students

Pacific University - School of Occupational Therapy

Presented at North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity Conference | Baltimore, MD - June, 2019 

Primary Investigator: Dr. Erica Rauff

Longitudinal Assessment of College Students for Weight, Physical Activity & Mental Health

Seattle University - Kinesiology Department

Faculty Research: Dr. Erika Rauff

Mechanical Load and Injury Prediction Models in Collegiate Male Soccer Players

Seattle University - Kinesiology Department

Department Research: Sean Machak

Effectiveness of Cold-Water Immersion on Pain & Inflammation Due to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness in College Students

Seattle University - Kinesiology Department

Senior Capstone: Carolyn van der Meulen, Kyra Tengan & Nicholas Prasad

Self-talk and Self-Assessment: Affirmations, Self-Esteem and Life Satisfaction

Seattle University - Psychology Department

Senior Capstone: Carolyn van der Meulen, Elena Degel & Jordyn Kirchgessner

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References available upon request.

© 2020, Carolyn van der Meulen

All content owned by Carolyn van der Meulen or used with permission of owner.  Contact Carolyn van der Meulen to obtain content rights.

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