Occupational therapy (OT) plays a crucial role in addressing the occupational needs of individuals with mental health conditions. OT assessments are essential for identifying, evaluating, and addressing any challenges that individuals may face in performing their daily occupations, such as self-care, work, and leisure activities.

Occupational Therapy Initial Assessment for Mental Health

The initial OT assessment for mental health involves a comprehensive evaluation of an individual’s functional abilities, occupational needs, and psychosocial factors.

This assessment typically includes:

  • Interview: A thorough interview with the individual to gather information about their history, symptoms, daily routines, goals, and concerns.
  • Observations: Observing the individual’s interactions with their environment and their performance of daily tasks.
  • Standardised Assessments: Administering standardised assessments to measure specific functional skills, such as cognitive abilities, sensory processing, and fine motor skills.

Occupational Therapy Functional Assessment for Mental Health

The occupational therapy functional assessment focuses on evaluating an individual’s ability to perform specific occupational tasks within their daily routines. This assessment may include:

  • Activity Analysis: Breaking down daily activities into component tasks to identify specific areas of challenge.
  • Performance-Based Assessments: Observing the individual’s performance of specific tasks, such as preparing meals, managing finances, or using public transportation.
  • Environmental Assessment: Evaluating the individual’s physical and social environment to identify potential barriers and facilitators of occupational performance.

Risk Assessment in Occupational Therapy for Mental Health

Risk assessment is an integral part of OT practice, particularly in mental health, to identify and manage potential risks to the individual’s safety or well-being. This may include:

  • Suicide Risk Assessment: Evaluating risk factors for suicide and developing a safety plan.
  • Violence and Aggression Risk Assessment: Assessing risk factors for aggression towards others and developing preventive measures.
  • Self-Neglect Risk Assessment: Evaluating the individual’s ability to meet their basic needs and identifying interventions to address self-neglectful behaviours.

Occupational Self-Assessment in Mental Health

Occupational self-assessment tools can be used to gather information directly from the individual about their perceived challenges and goals. This may include:

  • Occupational Self-Assessment Questionnaire (OSAQ): A self-reported measure of an individual’s satisfaction with their occupational performance.
  • Occupational Performance Measure (OPM): A self-reported measure of an individual’s perceived difficulties in performing occupational tasks.
  • Self-Efficacy Scales: Assessing an individual’s confidence in their ability to perform specific tasks or achieve their occupational goals.

Assessments in Occupational Therapy for Mental Health: An Integrative Approach

OT assessments for mental health should adopt an integrative approach, considering the individual’s biological, psychological, and social factors influencing their occupational performance. This includes:

  • Biopsychosocial Model: Acknowledging the interplay between biological, psychological, and social factors in mental health conditions.
  • Client-Centered Approach: Involving the individual actively in the assessment process, valuing their perspectives and goals.
  • Holistic Evaluation: Considering the individual’s entire occupational profile, including self-care, work, leisure, and social participation.

Case Study: Applying Integrative Assessment in OT for Mental Health

An OT practitioner was assessing a client with anxiety and depression. The assessment revealed difficulties with self-care tasks, social interactions, and work performance. The OT practitioner considered the client’s biological factors (medication side effects), psychological factors (anxiety symptoms), and social factors (limited social support) in developing an intervention plan.

The intervention plan included:

  • Self-care Skills Training: Providing strategies for managing anxiety and improving self-care routines.
  • Social Skills Training: Practicing social interaction techniques and identifying supportive social settings.
  • Work Accommodation Strategies: Identifying modifications to the client’s work environment to reduce anxiety and improve productivity.

By adopting an integrative approach to assessment, the OT practitioner was able to address the client’s occupational challenges holistically, considering their unique needs and circumstances.


Occupational therapy assessment plays a critical role in identifying and addressing the occupational needs of individuals with mental health conditions. By employing a comprehensive, client-centred, and integrative approach to occupational health assessment, OT practitioners can develop effective interventions that promote occupational participation, enhance well-being, and support individuals in achieving their personal goals.

Speak to an Occupational Health professional today.

Article fact-checked and approved by Dr. Amun Kalia and Dr Deryk Waller