Occupational therapy for military personnel and military veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder: A scoping review

Aust Occup Ther J. 2020 Oct;67(5):479-497. doi: 10.1111/1440-1630.12684. Epub 2020 Jul 5.


Introduction: As the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among military personnel and military veterans continues to rise, occupational therapists are increasingly concerned with the impact of this disorder on health, occupational performance, and quality of life. However, the literature on occupational therapy for military personnel and military veterans with PTSD has not been summarised.

Method: The objective was to identify what is known from the published, peer-reviewed literature, about the services provided by occupational therapists to military personnel and military veterans experiencing PTSD. Arksey and O'Malley's five steps for scoping reviews were utilised. A search of three databases identified 27 articles.

Results: Of the 27 papers reviewed, 13 papers discussed military personnel, 13 for military veterans, and 1 reported on both populations. Of these 27, 9 research papers provided data to support the efficacy of interventions, whereas 2 papers reported occupational performance issues. Eight opinion and eight service description papers were included. The most commonly mentioned interventions across the reviewed papers were stress and anger, or coping skills (n = 11), returning to duty (n = 9), physical training (n = 7), and sleep hygiene (n = 6).

Conclusion: Occupational therapists provide services to military personnel who are vulnerable to PTSD from combat and operational stress. Rarely did publications address intervention efficacy for military personnel. Additionally, there is a paucity of literature that addresses occupational therapy interventions following transition from military service for veterans with PTSD specific to facilitating reintegration to civilian life. Despite this, occupational therapists are well suited to enable military veterans to build upon their existing strengths, skills, and professional identities to minimise the impact of PTSD on daily life and to reach their full potential.

Keywords: PTSD; military personnel; occupational therapy; rehabilitation; veteran.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel*
  • Occupational Therapy / organization & administration*
  • Quality of Life
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / rehabilitation*
  • Veterans*