Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

LaVonne Fox


Adolescent; Child; Health Promotion; Indians, North American; Mental Health; Occupational Therapy -- methods


Purpose: Native American children and adolescents are some of the most underserved people in the United States (Warzak, Dogan, & Godfrey, 2011). Common mental health problems this population typically experiences are depression, suicidal thoughts or ideation, traumatic experiences, substance use, and results of historical trauma (Brockie, Dana-Sarco, Wallen, Wilcox, & Campbell, 2015). They have the highest rates of these mental health problems, more than any other ethnic group (Evans-Campbell, Walters, Pearson, & Campbell, 2012). There is a need for preventative programs to be implemented with elementary school-aged Native American children and adolescents (Ohl, Mitchell, Cassidy, & Fox, 2008; Stigler, Neusel, & Perry, 2011; Urbaeva, Booth, & Wei, 2017). Many programs with Native Americans have been previously unsuccessful due to the lack of culturally relevant interventions and the spiritual aspect (Brockie et al., 2015; DeMars, 1992; Urbaeva et al., 2017).

Methodology: Data bases searched include: Academic Search Premiere, EBSCOHost, ERIC, CINAHL, PsychInfo, PubMed, Google Scholar, and reliable government websites. The key terms and phrases used for searching include: Native American(s), mental health, education, school programs, prevention, prevention programs, occupational therapy, cultural programs, protective factors and others. The information gathered helped inform the literature review for the background, history, and needs of Native Americans. From this literature search, a gap in literature regarding a need for culturally relevant, prevention-based programs in the educational setting for Native American youth was identified.

Results: A culturally relevant program for occupational therapists to promote mental health wellness with Native American children was designed. The Canadian Model of Occupational Performance and Engagement (CMOP-E) guided the development of this project as it focuses on the spirituality as the center of the person, which aligns with the goal of a culturally relevant product. In addition, the CMOP-E helped to tie the relevance back to occupational therapy and result in a positive change in occupational performance and engagement. Five units emerged based on findings from the literature review and CMOP-E: spiritual, mental, emotional, relational, and physical health. Each unit has three session outlines with suggested adaptations, along with additional resources and activity ideas so that it can be implemented in various settings. These sessions should be expanded as the occupational therapist increases competency. The sessions were designed as a starting point. A common factor within the units was to identify and build on protective factors to promote strength-based approaches, rather than problem-focused.

Conclusions: Native American children and adolescents have the potential for exposure to a variety of mental health challenges and, if addressed earlier, positive mental health and quality of life. Programs targeting Native Americans need to be culturally relevant to be successful. Schools are an opportunity to reach the most children and adolescents. Occupational therapists are able to work within schools. However, there is a lack of programs or curriculums to guide culturally relevant occupational therapy interventions. The results of this product will guide occupational therapists working with Native American students to provide culturally relevant interventions and improvement in mental health. An important concept for Native American populations is building protective factors. This program has an emphasis on building protective factors, which hopefully allows for better outcomes in quality of life and reduction of risk factors in Native Americans.