Emily Katherynn Simpson, Ph.D., OTR/L

Associate Professor

Midwestern University
College of Health Sciences
Occupational Therapy Program
Alumni Hall North-330-G
555 31st St.
Downers Grove, IL 60515
Office: (630) 515-7127
e-mail: esimps@midwestern.edu


PhD Service Leadership Cardinal Stritch University
MS Occupational Therapy University of Illinois at Chicago  
BA Fine Arts/Art History  DePaul University


Major Research Interests

I: Transitions in occupations for transgender people: Research has demonstrated that gender transition is related to improved mental health, stability within personal relationships, and greater satisfaction with and happiness in life. Throughout the process of gender transition, transgender people experience transitions within their valued roles and the occupations that make up their daily lives, including work, parenting, and participation in leisure. Early research on occupational transition, which is a concept that explains how people adapt to life changes, has shown that people who negotiate major life transitions often desire continuity with patterns of occupation, sometimes experience disruption to occupational engagement, and also gain new occupations. Because gender transition can be considered a major life change that is associated with both negative social consequences and positive personal growth, it is important to understand how transgender people manage the changes that they experience within their occupations, and how gender transition impacts their overall occupational participation.  

II: Relationship of gender to occupation: The binary gender system of the Western world has a great influence on how people experience and engage in the occupations of daily life. Vocations, interests, educational pursuits, and many other of the activities upon which people build their routines and structure their lives are shaped by the social expectations of gender conformity. Additionally, gender is considered an underlying social determinant of health, and health is an outcome of occupational participation. As occupational science is concerned with exploring the ways in which occupation is enacted and understood, it is useful to consider how gender may impact people's perceptions of the occupations that are available to them, how occupations are used to express and perform gender, and how gender impacts occupational performance. Research in this area can inform practices that address the social factors that influence health.

III: Increasing residential stability for homeless adults with serious mental illness: Individuals with SMI have long been a target population for OT services, and increasingly these services are provided within the community. Since individuals with SMI are at increased risk for chronic homelessness, and housing has been identified as key to recovery and stability, it is necessary for OTs to design creative community-based programs to reach this population in order to promote the skills, behaviors, and occupations that will support residential stability and increase economic security. One of these programs has been implemented and evaluated over a decade for its success in preventing evictions due to ineffective household management, poor self-care, limited financial literacy skills, and challenges with food and nutrition management. This life skills intervention has been used with multiple groups in various types of supportive and emergency housing programs within the community. Results have been promising and the intervention has been made available to rehabilitation professionals across the U.S.

IV: Intimate partner violence and occupational deprivation: Violence within intimate relationships is a complicated social problem that is prevalent within every community and across all people, regardless of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, age, and nationality. People who experience intimate partner violence (IPV) are at increased risk for physical injury, illness, depression, anxiety, and disability. Additionally, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups such as older adults, experience a range of unique consequences that present additional barriers to accessing services and safety, and as a result they are at great risk for occupational deprivation. Because occupational therapists may treat survivors of IPV in all practice settings, it is critical that practitioners understand the nuances of the relationship between violence and disability, and also be prepared to screen all clients for IPV. OT practitioners also are distinctly qualified to address the impact of IPV on occupational performance, and to minimize occupational deprivation through the safe promotion of independence and self-sufficiency.


Simpson, E. K., Ramirez, N. M., Branstetter, B., Reed, A., & Lines, E. (2018). Occupational therapy practitioner perspectives of mental health practices with clients in stroke rehabilitation. OTJR: Occupation, Participation, & Health. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/1539449218759627.

Simpson, E. K., Conniff, B. G., Faber, B. N., & Semmelhack, E. K. (2018). Daily occupations, routines, and social participation of homeless young people. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/0164212X.2017.1421491

Simpson, E. K., Lukas, A., James, M., & Jones, S. (In Press). Leisure-based group intervention for at-risk, urban dwelling children. SIS Quarterly Practice Connections.

Simpson, E. K. (2017). Influence of gender-based family roles on gender transition for transgender women. Journal of GLBT Family Studies. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/1550428X.2017.1359722

Simpson, E. K., Guimond, J., Park, L., Robinson, C., & Wauthier, M. (2017). Transitioning from nursing facilities to community living for people with serious mental illness. Communique, 3, 9-12.

Simpson, E. K., Angell, J., Cuba, J., Harris, M., & Nagy, K. (2017). Perspectives of homeless families on the influence of supportive housing on family roles and routines. Communique, 2, 6-9.

Watts, I. D., Kraus, S. J., & Simpson, E. K. (2016). An exploration of the self-management routines of people with serious mental illness. Communique, 4, 9-10.

Simpson, E. K., & Helfrich, C. (2014). Oppression and barriers to service for black, lesbian survivors of intimate partner violence. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 26(4), 441-464. doi:10.1080/10538720.2014.951816

Helfrich, C.A., Simpson, E., & Chan, D. (2014). Change patterns of homeless individuals with mental illness: A multiple case study. Community Mental Health Journal, 50, 531-537. doi:10.1007/s10597-013-9647-x

Simpson, E. K. (2014). Building our evidence base through occupational therapy student contributions. Communique, 2, 10-22.

Helfrich, C.A., Simpson, E., Chan, D., & Sabol, P. (2012). Readiness-to-change cluster profiles among adults with mental illness who were homeless participating in a life skills intervention. Community Mental Health Journal, 48, 673-681. doi:10.1007/s10597-011-9383-z

Helfrich, C.A., Badiani, C. & Simpson, E. K. (2006). Worker role identity development of women with disabilities who experience domestic violence. Work, 27, 319-328.

Helfrich, C. & Simpson, E. (2006). Improving services for lesbian clients: What do domestic violence agencies need to do? Health Care for Women International, 27, 344-361. doi:10.1080/07399330500511725

Simpson, E. & Helfrich, C. (2005). Lesbian survivors of intimate partner violence: Provider perspectives on barriers to accessing services. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, 18, 5, 39-59. doi:10.1300/J041v1802_03



College of Health Sciences-
Illinois Occupational Therapy Program

OTHED 630: Research II
OTHED 631: Research III
OTHED 633: Research IV
OTHED 667: Psychosocial Practice
OTHED 1510: Critical Analysis of Evidence
OTHED 1512: Research Project Development
OTHED 1610: Research Project Implementation
OTHED 1612: Research Project Synthesis