Emily K. Simpson, Ph.D., M.S., OTR/L

Downers Grove, IL

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Dr. Emily Simpson earned Baccalaureate degrees in fine arts and developmental psychology from DePaul University, a Master’s in Science of occupational therapy from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a PhD in education and service leadership from Cardinal Stritch University. She is the Director of Student Research in the Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program and also serves as the Chair of Admissions. She teaches five research courses, the psychosocial practice course, and a seminar on occupational justice. Dr. Simpson has 17 years of experience as an occupational therapist working in community mental health and emerging practice areas, such as domestic violence shelters and transitional living facilities for people who are homeless/precariously housed. She has worked as an occupational therapy educator for 14 years. Her current research interests focus on marginalized young people who are homeless and values-based admissions processes in OT education as a way to increase representation.


Downers Grove, IL

College of Health Sciences - IL

Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy

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Cardinal Stritch University | 0 | Ph.D.
Depaul University | 0 | B.S.
University of Illinois at Chicago | 0 | M.S.

Courses Taught

OTHED 1510- Critical Analysis of Evidence

OTHED 1512- Research Project Development

OTHED 1610- Research Project Implementation

OTHED 1612- Research Project Synthesis

OTHED 1649- OT Practice-Psychosocial

OTHED 1722- Recovery & Occupational Justice


Dr. Simpsons' research is primarily qualitative, with an emphasis on the lived experiences of marginalized communities. Her primarily research interests include:

Homelessness in LGBTQ+ young people: Dr. Simpson explores occupational identity in LGBTQ+ young people who are homeless or precariously housed (i.e. shelters, transitional living facilities, supportive housing), including the development of identity as a worker through work self-efficacy interventions. She also investigates how the unique experiences of this population are shaped by discrimination, social oppression, and family and other social contexts, and additionally how their resilience and resourcefulness impact their occupations and daily routines. 

Inclusion and representation in occupational therapy education: Per the AOTA 2019 Workforce and Salary Survey[1], 88.9% of occupational therapy practitioners are white, a statistic that underscores the lack of diversity within the profession. Dr. Simpson's research focuses on the use of values-based admissions processes to increase access to and opportunity for occupational therapy education among applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds, applicants of color, and those with a range of diverse experiences, including first-generation college students. She is currently exploring opportunties to conduct research on the development and implementation of strong undergraduate and graduate school pipelines for high school students who have expressed interest in occupational therapy and other health and rehabilitation professions.

Relationship of trauma and violence to occupation: Dr. Simpson has conducted research on the experiences of people in same-sex relationships who have experienced partner violence and the needs that they have related to life skill development and social participation. Her current interests focus on how trauma shapes people's experiences of occupation, including the trauma of violence, poverty, food insecurity, homelessness, and displacement.


[1] American Occupational Therapy Association. (2020). AOTA 2019 workforce and salary survey. Author.


Simpson. E. K., McDermott, C. P., & Hild, L. E. (2020). Needs of transitionally housed young people to promote occupational participation. Occupational Therapy in Health Care. https://doi.org/10.1080/07380577.2020.1737895

Simpson, E. K., Ramirez, N. M., Branstetter, B., Reed, A., & Lines, E. (2018). Occupational therapy practitioners’ perspectives of mental health practices in stroke rehabilitation. OTJR: Occupation, Participation, and Health, 38, 181-189. 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, 34(3), 203-227. doi:10.1080/0164212X.2017.1421491

Simpson, E. K., Lukas, A., James, M., & Jones, S. (2018). A leisure-based group intervention for at-risk, urban dwelling children. SIS Quarterly Practice Connections: A Supplement to OT Practice, 3(3), 16-19.

Guimond, J., Park, L., Robinson, C., Wauthier, M., & Simpson, E. K. (2017). Transitioning from nursing facilities to community living for people with serious mental illness. Communique, 3, 6-9.

Simpson, E. K. (2017). Influence of gender-based family roles on gender transition for transgender women. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 14(4), 356-380. doi:10.1080/1550428X.2017.1359722

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.

Simpson, E. K., Watts, I. D., & Kraus, S.J. (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

Simpson, E.  (2014). Building our evidence base through occupational therapy student contributions. Communique, April/May/June 2014.

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

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. https://doi.org/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, 39-59https://doi.org/10.1300/J041v18n02_03


The Night Ministry

Magdalene House Chicago

El Rescate Transitional Living Facility

Family Rescue, Inc.

World Health Organization’s Global Clinical Practice Network


2018-2019       Principal Investigator, “An occupational therapy work-self-efficacy intervention for transitionally housed LGBTQ young people,” Midwestern College of Health Sciences Research Facilitation Grant; $4730.67