Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Anne M. Haskins


Hydrotherapy; Occupational Therapists -- education


Purpose: With injuries, diseases and various conditions occurring daily among millions of Americans, the need for therapeutic intervention is steadily growing, as indicated by The American Occupational Therapy Association (2017a). Aquatic therapy is a unique practice that may be utilized across multiple healthcare professionals to benefit clients with a variety of conditions. Occupational therapists are qualified to perform aquatic techniques with clients in the pool; however, aquatic therapy is rarely utilized in occupational therapy practice (Franken, Mische Lawson & Santalucia, 2013). The problem may be derived from the lack of knowledge from occupational therapy students and entry-level practitioners regarding aquatic techniques in practice (Franken et al., 2013). Therefore, occupational therapy students and entry-level therapists should be educated on the benefits, drawbacks and intervention strategies involved with aquatic therapy in order to provide a unique, evidence-based experience to clients.

Methodology: A literature review was conducted exploring the concepts of education and aquatic therapy components using PubMed, Google Scholar, Academic Search Premier and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) databases. Key terms used in this search included aquatic therapy, education, and occupational therapy. Techniques for teaching and learning in the educational environment were also reviewed using Academic Search Premier, Google Scholar and CINAHL databases using key terms such as occupational therapy, education, teaching, learning, and students. Specific educational techniques used for this manual were based on the theories of Andragogy, also known as adult learning, and Cognitive Constructivism, which involves active learning and forming personalized meaning through experiences (Powell & Kalina, 2009). Additionally, the evaluation and intervention samples were designed based on the Ecology of Human Performance Model (EHP), which involves using a multitude of approaches to address the person, context, task and performance (Dunn, 2017). Aspects of EHP relevant to this manual include the support of interdisciplinary treatment, community-based involvement, and allows for the environment to facilitate client behavioral change (Dunn, 2017).

Outcome: Several outcomes to aquatic therapy were discovered for clients with a variety of conditions. Some benefits of aquatic interventions included increased muscle strength, improved balance and coordination, reduced fear of falling, and enhanced functional mobility (Resende & Rassi, 2008; Salem et al., 2015). Aquatic intervention was also found to improve dual-task performance and overall mood or satisfaction with performance (Shaefer, Louder, Foster & Bressel, 2016). Drawbacks of water-based intervention were found including allergic reactions to chlorine and limited access to the aquatic environment (Lima, Dias, Mazuquin, da Silva, Nogueira, Marques & Cardoso, 2013). Specific materials regarding inclusion of aquatic therapy in occupational therapy education were limited and research of water-based techniques in occupational therapy practice was scarce.

Product: A resource manual was developed to provide educational material for occupational therapy students and entry-level practitioners. The manual begins with a brief introduction of aquatic therapy and interprofessional utilization of this water-based strategy. It continues with descriptions of how the manual can be used in an educational setting as well as an intervention manual for practitioners. While utilizing occupational therapy evaluation tools as pretest and outcome measures and occupations as a means of therapy, a wide variety of populations are able to benefit from this manual. Sample sessions and case studies are included to support learning and provide a user friendly tool.