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                                                      Health Alert: COVID-19 - Please refer to our latest updates here.  Classes are currently being conducted remotely.

Occupational Therapy

Man cooking with aide

Occupational Therapy is a profession that helps people across the lifespan and in a variety of settings participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). With an OT Doctorate from the Katz School of Science and Health, students will develop knowledge, skills and professional attitudes, and an intellectual rigor for translating research into evidence-driven interventions while gaining the interprofessional recognition among peers that comes with a clinical doctoral degree. As an OT generalist, graduates will have the expertise to help clients gain greater independence and confidence in performing the tasks of everyday living. The 115-credit OTD program can be completed in less than three years. Follow your passion for helping people with a career in occupational therapy. 

Our mission is to provide doctoral-level education integrating theory, research and practice in order to develop caring and competent OT practitioners. These scholars of practice will be lifelong learners and advocates for the occupational therapy profession in diverse local and global communities. Through a student-centered and interprofessional curriculum, students will be reflective practitioners who will facilitate the well-being of clients through engagement in valued occupations as it relates to health promotion, prevention and wellness.

Upon successful completion of the program the Occupational Therapy Doctorate students will be able to:

  • Develop and implement client centered care that is inclusive of cultural values, beliefs and needs.
  • Demonstrate effective communication skills to function effectively as a member of an interprofessional health care team.
  • Apply critical analysis of evidence during the occupational therapy process and participate to increase the body of knowledge of the profession through the preparation and dissemination of scholarship.
  • Design and implement interventions with a central focus on occupation as the means and end of therapeutic process, in line with the profession’s philosophy.
  • Integrate health promotion and wellness in interventions with individuals, communities and populations.
  • Model leadership and advocacy for occupational therapy in the full range of service areas.

Nicolaas van den Heever, OTD, BOT, OTR/L, Professor and Program Director, Occupational Therapy Doctorate 

Dr. Nicolaas van den Heever, an international expert in clinical practice, administration and education of occupational therapy, is clinical professor and founding director of the Katz School’s Occupational Therapy Doctorate program.  A native of South Africa, van den Heever earned his bachelor’s in occupational therapy from the University of Stellenbosch near Cape Town and his doctorate from the University of Saint Augustine in Florida. The first male occupational therapy graduate in his native South Africa, Dr. van den Heever has more than 35 years of experience in a variety of practice areas: mental health, wellness, neuromuscular and cognitive rehabilitation, aging in place, sensory integration, driving rehabilitation, and in a wide range of practice settings: hospitals, skilled nursing, acute and outpatient rehabilitation, the military, community-based rehabilitation in rural villages in Africa and China (for the World Health Organization), developing new transdisciplinary practices that were unheard of at the time in these countries, large psychiatric hospitals and industrial units, orphanages, substance abuse rehabilitation centers, and in private practice. View Dr. van den Heever’s full profile.

Marie Patterson, MOT, Director of Fieldwork Education and Clinical Associate Professor

Marie Patterson is an Occupational Therapist, known for her commitment to teaching others. She was drawn to the Occupational Therapy (OT) field after her sister suffered a traumatic brain injury.   She has extensive experience as a fieldwork educator in a range of practice settings including hospitals, hand therapy, skilled nursing, home health, and schools.  In prior roles, Ms. Patterson has coordinated, planned, and facilitated fieldwork education programs.  She has completed the AOTA Fieldwork Educator Certification program and has provided clinical supervision for graduate students and mentored fellow clinical educators for over ten years. View Marie Patterson's full profile.

Alexandra Wagner, MOT, OTR/L, Clinical Assistant Professor

Alexandra Wagner has worked primarily with older adults, and has expertise in disability studies, dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, occupational justice, and aging. She previously taught occupational therapy at Stony Brook University where she integrated the field of disability studies and principles of occupational justice. She earned her Master of Science degree in occupational therapy from Utica College. She is expected to graduate with her PhD from Stony Brook University in May 2020. Her research focuses on the experiences of older adults with cognitive changes who are aging in place. 


Yeshiva University’s OTD program is based on the belief that people are occupational beings and have the potential to change, and therefore can influence their own health status. Occupational engagement and occupation-based interventions are therefore the central theme of the curriculum.


The philosophy of the OTD program reflects the mission statement and values of Yeshiva University, the values of the occupational therapy profession, and the mission and values of the faculty of the OTD program. Some of the themes evident in these entities are student-centrality, commitment to the communities served, innovation and creativity, and the efficient use of resources. The curriculum incorporates beliefs about health and well-being, occupation, and teaching and learning.

The program embraces the definition of health by the World Health Organization: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing—not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This holistic view of health, focusing on quality of life, is achieved through the aspects of occupational therapy’s domain as described in the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process (AOTA, 2017). All the aspects of the domain support engagement, participation, and health: Areas of human occupation, client factors, performance skills, and context and environment. The program is committed to providing academic and practical experiences focused on health promotion, restoration of health, health maintenance, and compensation and adaptation.

The overarching statement of the Domain of Occupational Therapy is what connects the profession with health and well-being: “Supporting health and participation in life through engagement in occupation.” (AOTA, 2008) The defining contribution of the profession is the application of knowledge, professional attitudes and values to assist clients in engaging in everyday meaningful activities or occupations, i.e. the things people need and want to do. The OTD program will educate students to evaluate the aspects of the occupational therapy domain and apply this knowledge to the intervention process as they work to support the health and participation of their clients and communities. It further highlights the profession’s “positive relationship between occupation and health and its view of people as occupational beings.” (AOTA, 2008, p. 625) In operationalizing the curriculum, the core values of the profession will be made clear:

  • All people should be able to participate to their fullest in the occupations they want or need to do.
  • All people should be able to experience independence and interdependence.
  • All people have the right to be treated equally.
  • All people have the right to feel secure.
  • All people have the right to be well and have access to health care

Occupation is defined by Law, et al. (1989), as “activities people do every day to occupy themselves in order to look after themselves, enjoy their lives and contribute” to the social and economic fabric of their communities.” The program thus centers its curriculum on the value and meaning of occupation as performed by human beings through the stages of human development. For occupational therapists to provide occupation-based interventions requires a client-centered approach. The value of this approach will be mirrored and reinforced through the university’s student-centered commitment to education. The process of occupational therapy education will require that students develop critical and clinical reasoning skills, problem-solving skills, creativity, abstract thinking, a capacity for empathy, and an understanding of diversity and the perspectives of all stakeholders. This focus on occupation-based practice will give students the critical experience of the profession’s uniqueness, establish society’s view of the profession, and develop a strong professional identity within the student. Occupation-based practice can be seen as a major curricular thread in the course design, fieldwork and the student’s learning experiences. A major focus of the program will be community health and well-being: Combining occupation-based practice with community practice. Through fieldwork experiences and scholarly activities, students will provide interventions, develop and evaluate community programs, perform needs assessments, and improve occupational engagement in a variety of nontraditional and emerging practice settings through the lifespan.

How many credits will I complete in the program? The program is 115 credits.

How long will the program take to complete? The program is completed over eight (8) 15-week semesters.

Where are classes held? Classes will be held at the Resnick Campus (1165 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461).

Are all courses in-person? Yes, all courses will be in-person.

What days and times are classes held? Classes are held Monday-Thursday 9am-5pm. On Friday’s, classes will be held from 9am-12pm (for makeup classes & seminars).

Can I work while studying in this program? No, this is a full-time program; the curriculum is very rigorous and requires significant work outside of classes.

Do I need a master’s degree to apply to this program? No. This is an entry-level doctorate program, and you may begin after completing your bachelor’s degree and all required prerequisite courses. Visit the Admissions website to learn more about admissions requirements.

What makes the OTD at the Katz School of Science and Health unique? The program focuses on community health and wellness by providing a hands-on, learning-through-doing experience. There is a focus on scholarship of practice and an outcomes mindset of creating quality practitioners that are market-ready for a wide variety of practice settings.

What does the fieldwork look like in this program? In the 1st semester, there will be didactic courses to introduce professional behavior and practice settings. In the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th semesters, students will complete 40 hours of observation over the course of one week. The 5th and 6th semesters will require completion of 960 hours of fieldwork at a minimum of 40 hours per week. This fieldwork can be done either within the country or internationally.

How do I apply? Visit the Admissions website for more information or to schedule an appointment with an admissions director.

Are there prerequisites? If so, what happens if I don’t have them? Yes, there are prerequisites. You can apply to the program if you are still completing outstanding prerequisites; however, your application will not be reviewed if you are missing more than two of these courses. Visit the Admissions website for more information or schedule an appointment with one our admissions directors to do a preliminary transcript review.

Do I need a specific undergraduate degree to attend the program? There is no required undergraduate degree so long as the prerequisites are completed. However, we commonly find individuals with backgrounds in kinesiology, social studies, psychology, and sociology working in the field of occupational therapy.

What is the cost to attend the program? The Office of Student Finance maintains current tuition and fees for all graduate programs:

Are there any additional costs other than the tuition and fees posted on the Office of Student Finance website? Yes, there will be additional costs for books, uniforms, a lab kit and CPR trainings. In some cases, fieldwork sites may require additional background checks, and there may be a nominal fee for biometric screening. Students are also required to have a laptop.

What types of academic, career, student support services do you provide? The Katz School organizes academic supports including academic and business English language courses; writing and math tutoring; and professional development workshops, lectures and events exclusively for its students. The University’s career center also provides a variety of services, including one-on-one appointments, resume and cover letter reviews, workshops, job fairs, and online resources to help with job searching and interviewing. In addition, Katz students can access all Yeshiva University services including disability services, counseling services, international student services, and more.

Who do I contact if I have more questions about the program? We invite you to contact Dr. van den Heever, the OTD Program Director: with any questions about the program, or the field of occupational therapy.