Occupational Therapy: Chronic Illness and Depression

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About the Authors

Alexandra L. Terrill, PhD, received her PhD in clinical psychology from Washington State University, with specialized training in clinical health psychology. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington in rehabilitation psychology. During her fellowship, she was involved in research on aging with physical disabilities associated with chronic conditions. Dr. Terrill is currently a faculty member at the University of Utah, Division of Occupational Therapy. Her research encompasses three basic areas: (1) stress, coping/
adjustment, and chronic health conditions; (2) using strengths-based interventions (positive psychology); and (3) aging. Her broad goal is to improve our understanding of how social, psychological, and biological processes interact to affect individuals aging with a chronic condition and develop interventions that enhance productivity and quality of life from early to late adulthood. She is particularly interested in investigating and enhancing protective factors involved in the prevention of and adjustment to chronic medical conditions and associated disability. 

Brandon Abbs, PhD, earned his PhD in psychology from the University of Iowa and a BA in psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park. He was most recently a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. During this fellowship, he was involved in research projects on the relationship between maternal infection during pregnancy and a child’s risk for schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, and early cognitive decline. He studied this relationship using neuroimaging and neuropsychology. He is currently a senior medical writer for a biotechnology company in
Boston, where he composes documents needed to conduct clinical trials in oncology and to inform people about specific cancer types and available treatments.

Peer reviewer: John G. Cagle, PhD, MSW is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work
in Baltimore. His work focuses on the psychosocial dimensions of family caregiving and coping with life-threatening illness. As a clinician-researcher, his scholarship is informed by nearly a decade of experience as a hospice social worker. His scholarship includes work on the application of cognitive-behavioral treatment
approaches with families coping with serious, life-threatening illness. His research has also included clinical trials to assess for and address barriers to pain management in hospice care, efforts to improve palliative care in long-term care settings, and an evaluation of caregiving at the end of life. His work has been supported by the John A. Hartford Foundation, the National Palliative Care Research Center, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the National Institutes of Health.

Learning Objectives 
  • Describe the co-occurrence of depression and chronic illness.
  • Recognize the symptoms of depression and appropriate assessment tools to screen for depression.
  • Identify common causes and contributing risk and protective factors for depression in individuals in medical populations.
  • Describe treatment approaches for depression in individuals with chronic illness.
  • Describe the implications of chronic illness and depression on physical and occupational therapy practice.

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