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OTS 111: Back To Our Roots: Mental Health and The School-Based Role

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Welcome to the show notes for Episode 111 of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast.

As OTPs, we were taught that our profession was founded on providing a safe space for those with mental illnesses, and we were there to help them engage in meaningful occupations, yet we tend to forget the importance of this.

Today, we speak with Moni Keen to address her capstone research on being an interprofessional team member and mental health in school-aged children. OTPs are often not seen as mental health providers, but we must advocate and change that narrative.

Tune in to learn how we can advocate for mental health and how we can address mental health individually with our students and on a systems level.

Tune in to learn the following objectives:

  • Learners will identify reasons why mental health is not being addressed in schools

  • Learners will identify why OTPs are not labeled as mental health providers

  • Learners will identify mental health diagnoses of school-aged children and youth

  • Learners will identify and reflect on the causes of mental health issues among our students

  • Learners will identify how to advocate for mental health in OT

  • Learners will identify how to advocate for students on a systems level

Guest Bio

Monica Keen, OTD, OTR/L

Dr. Monica Keen is currently an Associate Professor at Presbyterian College. She is the Doctoral Capstone Coordinator and comes to Presbyterian College with 33 years of clinical experience. Dr. Keen retired in May of this year after 27 years of school-based practice. She is an adjunct instructor at Baylor University and she is a contributing faculty member at the University of St. Augustine. She was an adjunct instructor for 7 years with the Medical University of South Carolina. Her 33 years of clinical practice included working in mental health at the Institute of Psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina, acute care, and nursing home settings. She owned a private pediatric practice for 12 years and closed the doors of Developing Abilities when she took on full-time academia. She has authored two separate chapters for colleagues’ books: one on school-based and infant mental health and the other on handwriting. Dr. Keen has done two webinars for where she presented her Capstone work on OT being a part of an interprofessional team member for mental health in school-aged children. Her second webinar was on how COVID-19 impacted the behavior of school-aged children. In September of 2022, Dr. Keen was a guest on Jayson Davies’ OT Schoolhouse podcast where the topic of discussion was occupational therapy and school-based mental health. Currently, she is the co-chair for Mental Health for her state’s professional organization, the South Carolina Occupational Therapy Association.

Dr. Keen graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy from the Medical University of South Carolina, and in 2008 she earned her master’s degree from Boston University. In 2019 she graduated with high honors with her clinical doctorate degree from the University of St. Augustine. She is passionate about Occupational Therapy and has a distinct interest in mental health, trauma-informed care, and pediatrics, particularly autism.

Mental health is a passion for Dr. Keen. Her capstone was on serving as a member of an interprofessional school team to address mental health issues in school-based practice. Her research findings were sobering and have ignited a desire to discover ways to re-establish OT as a recognized mental health provider.

Monica resides in Greenville, SC, and is a proud mom to two amazing adult daughters. She has two adorable Boston Terriers (Bubbles and Boomer), she loves college football, enjoys running and hiking, and being in the sun by the pool or beach is a favorite pastime.


“We have got a significant amount of work that we have to do to regain the momentum of getting back into being recognized as a qualified mental health provider” - Monica Keen OTD, OTR/L

“It is paramount that whenever we document on a therapy session, that we do include something about the mental health aspect of that 30 minutes” - Monica Keen, OTD, OTR/L

“We know mental health is important, but we don't constantly look at it unless we put it at the forefront of our brain” - Jayson Davies, M.A., OTR/L

“Sometimes that IEP objective has to take the backseat for a session because that's not what the child needs at that point in time. Sometimes we’ve just got to meet them where they're at, and get them through that moment and then pick up the ball the next week” - Monica Keen, OTD, OTR/L

“It is being their voice for those who cannot advocate for themselves. We are their voice and we need to take that seriously” - Monica Keen, OTD, OTR/L


Be sure to subscribe to the OT Schoolhouse email list & get access to our free downloads of Gray-Space paper and the Occupational Profile for school-based OTs. Subscribe now!

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