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Valerie Howells, PhD, OTRL


howells 353 Marshall





1991- Ph.D., Cambridge Graduate School of Psychology, Los Angeles, California


1988- M. A., Cambridge Graduate School of Psychology, Los Angeles, California


1974- Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy- Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI


Teaching Interests

Teaching Interests:

My teaching interests include assessment and intervention with individuals with mental illness, community based practice, disability studies and OT, theory, and participatory and ethnographic research.

Clinical and teaching Interest:

As a clinician, I worked with adults in both traditional and non-traditional community-based settings. During the later years of my practice I worked as a consultant and had a small private practice. The practice area I was most drawn to was that of mental health. I appreciated learning from my clients and supporting them to become more active members of their community. I bring this knowledge and experience into my teaching by using many cases from my practice. I am particularly interested in helping students to learn how to think through clinical challenges and be flexible in employing their skills. I enjoy teaching theory and helping students to explore its value in practice, helping students develop an awareness of how to use themselves therapeutically, and teaching about OT practice in mental health.

Research Interests:

My research interests center around stigma and mental illness, healing places, and occupational marginalization. I employ ethnographic methods and participatory research designs as I believe they afford the researcher the opportunity to both see and hear more clearly.

Selected Presentations and/or Publications


Howells, V
. (2011). Leisure and play. In C. Brown & V. C. Stoffel (Eds.), Occupational Therapy in Mental Health (pp. 724-735). F. A. Davis, Philadelphia.

Daniel, J., & Howells, V. (2009). African American women’s journey to academia and their experiences as occupational therapy professors.  McNair Chronicles, Volume 2, Fall 2009, Eastern Michigan University.

Howells, V.& Zelnik, T.  (2009) Making art:  A qualitative study of personal and group transformation in a community arts studio.  Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 32, 3 , 215-222.

Zelnik, T. & Howells, V.  (2007). Mood disorders.  In B. Atchison & D. Dirette (Eds.), Conditions in occupational therapy.  Baltimore, Maryland:  Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.

Howells, V. & Francis-Connolly, E. (March 2006). Constructing a mentoring web: Developing community- based practitioners. Special Interest Section Quarterly: Home and Community Health, 13 (1). American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.

Howells, V. and Dickie, V. (November 2004). The Art Oasis: An inclusive arts studio. Mental Health Occupational Therapy, 9 (3), 100-102.

Peer Reviewed Presentations:

Howells, V. (2013, May). Envisioning Spaces: Enlisting Stakeholders in the Redesign of Natural Environments in a Psychiatric Setting. Poster accepted for presentation at the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry 2013, Champagne-Urbana, Illinois.

Howells, V. (2013, June). Creating a healing space: The use of a participatory process in the design and implementation of natural spaces within a psychiatric hospital setting. Paper presented at the CU Expo, Corner Brook, Newfoundland, Canada, June 2013

Howells, V. (2013, July). Using a participatory process in the design and implementation of natural spaces in a psychiatric hospital setting Design and Health. Paper accepted for presentation at the 9th World Design and Health Conference, Brisbane, Australia, July 2013.

Howells, V. , Sinclair, J., & Moran, E.(2012, April). Creating opportunities for dialogue: Using photovice in the design of healing and natural  spaces in a hospital setting. Poster presented by Sinclair and Moran at the American Occupational Therapy Association Annual Conference, April 2012.

Garvey, K., Corbin, I., & Howells, V. (2011, April).Creating healing natural spaces: The use of a participatory action process in the design of a hospital based healing garden. American Occupational Therapy Association Annual Conference, Philadelphia, PA.
Howells, V. (2013, May).   I had my three camps’: An ethnographic study of the transformation of stigmatizing attitudes.  15th World Federation of Occupational Therapy Congress, Santiago, Chile. 

Howells, V., & Zelnik,T. (2008, September).Art making as a strategy to improve the health of individuals with psychiatric disabilities. World Congress of Psychiatry, Prague, Czech Republic.

Zelnik, T., & Howells, V. (2008, September). Exploration of psychiatrists’ attitudes toward evidence-based medicine algorithms.  Contributing author. World Congress of Psychiatry, Prague, Czech Republic.

Cole, S., Klerkx, D., Noonan, K., & Howells, V. (2008, May). An ethnography of a community-base autism collaboration. American Occupational Therapy Association Annual Conference, Long Beach, California.  

Invited Presentations:

Howells, V., Marterella, A., & Zakrajsek, A. (2012, September). Informing practice, Considering participation: Three approaches to community-based research. Panel presented at the Second Annual Lyla M. Spelbring Endowed Lecture and Conference, Ypsilanti, MI.

Howells, V. (Fall 2012). “Implementing Psychiatric Rehabilitation.” Invited lecture for staff and psychiatrists at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry, Ypsilanti, MI.

Zelnik, T. ,& Howells, V. (2012, February). Oil and water or oil and vinegar? Evidence-based medicine meets recovery.” St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Department of Psychiatry Continuing Medical Education, Ann Arbor, MI.

Howells, V.,  & Francis-Connolly, E. (2006). “ Evidence based practice.” With E. Francis-Connolly. Education SIS. American Occupational Therapy Association. Charlotte, North Carolina. 2006

Howells, V. (2005, May). “The effectiveness of a community arts studio: Assessing change in the lives of participants with and without mental illness.” University of Brighton, Euro Masters Occupational Therapy Program. Brighton England.

Howells, V., & Zelnik, T. (2004, May) “The effectiveness of a community arts studio on the lives of participants with and without mental illness.” Wayne State University, College of Education, Art Therapy Conference. Detroit, MI.

Zelnik, T., & Howells, V. (2003, Winter)“The use of qualitative research in evidence-based medicine.” With T. Zelnik. Continuing Medical Education, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor, MI.  

Howells, V. (2000, May).“Communicate-Advocate.” EMU Fieldwork Educators Day, Ypsilanti, MI.

Howells, V. (1999, April). “Introduction to problem based learning.” EMU Fieldwork Educators Day, Ypsilanti, MI.

Howells, V. (1998, November). “Reimbursement and ethics.” Huron Valley District OT Association, Ann Arbor, MI.

Carrellas, A., & Howells, V. (1993, December) “Working together: Social Work and Occupational Therapy.”  With Ann Carrellas.  Wayne State University Developmental Disabilities Institute, post graduate program. 

Funded projects:

Howells, V. (Winter 2012). Exploration and analysis of a Participatory Process used in the Design of Natural Spaces Surrounding a Partial Hospitalization Program. Sabbatical leave proposal for Winter 2012. Approved and funded.

Howells, V., & Reeves, G. (Fall 2009). Using global exchanges to enhance health care practice, advocacy skills, and curriculum design. Approved and funded.

Zelnik, T. C., & Howells, V. (May 2005). A Mixed Methods Study of Acceptance and Use of Standardized

Treatment Algorithms for Major Depressive and Bipolar Disorders in a Community-based Medical Delivery System. Grant proposal submitted to Ethel and James Flinn Foundation. Funded for 3 years for $725,000.00. Co-PI on project. Designed and implemented the qualitative portion of this mixed methods study.

Howells, V. (Fall 2001). Exploring Change in Participants at a Community Arts Studio. Faculty Research Fellowship proposal. Internal grant from Eastern Michigan University. Approved and funded.

Zelnik, T., & Howells, V. (April 2000). The effectiveness of a community arts studio: Assessing change in the lives of participants with and without mental illness. Grant proposal submitted to the Ethel and James Flinn Family Foundation.  Funded for $97,754.00.

Additional Information

Professional Service:

Reviewer for the Irish Journal of Occupational Therapy, 2014

Reviewer for the Journal of Community Psychology, 2013

Member of Ph.D. Dissertation Committee for Linda Leimbach, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2013

External reviewer of Ph.D. dissertation for Clodaugh Nolan, Trinity University, Dublin, Ireland, 2011

Consultant on inpatient psychiatric unit of St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor, MI.  November 2007-December 2009.

Founding member of the Autism Collaborative, an interdisciplinary organization designed to provide services to individuals with autism and their families. 2006-2007.

Governor’s Health Professionals Recovery Committee (HPRC). Represented the Michigan Board of Occupational Therapists.  January 2000- December 2003.

State representative for the American Occupational Therapy Associations Mental Health Partnership Project, Fall 1999-2000.

Co-founder of OTACTS: Occupational Therapists Advocating for Community-based Treatment and Services. Winter 1999.

Trailblazers Psychosocial Rehabilitation Clubhouse, Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

-          Chair of Board, Spring 2004 until 2005

-          Secretary of Board, Spring 1999 until August 2003

-          Elected to the Executive Board April 1999

-          Board member, 1997 to 2006

Michigan Occupational Therapy Association (MiOTA)

                - MiOTA representative to Partners for Parity Project, September 1999 to 2004

- Mental Health Liaison, September 1998 to 2002

- Standard Operating Procedures Task Force Coordinator, 1994-1996

Member of the Consumer Evaluation Committee at Dreams Unlimited Clubhouse, Oak Park, MI. Serve as a consultant to committee and provide Masters student support for projects. Fall 2000 through Spring 2001.

Key service to OT Program:

Personnel Committee Chair and committee member for the School of Health Sciences, 2004-2013

Chair of the OT program, 2008-2011.

Chair of the Program Evaluation Committee for the OT program, 2008-2011.

Chair of the Lyla M. Spelbring Endowed Lectureship and Conference Event Planning Committee, 2011-present.    

Founding member of the Lyla M. Spelbring Endowed Lectureship Committee, 2010- present.

Faculty Advisor of EMU Epsilon chapter of Pi Theta Epsilon Honor Society

Professional Awards:

Nominated for Women of Excellence Award, 2013

American Occupational Therapy Association/ American Occupational Therapy Foundation Leadership Fellowship, 2008

Teaching Excellence Award for the College of Health and Human Services from the EMU Alumni Association, 2007.

Service Award, Michigan Occupational Therapy Association, 2001.

Distinguished Alumna of the Year, Occupational Therapy Program, Department of Associated Health Professions, Eastern Michigan University, 1996.

Service Award, Michigan Occupational Therapy Association, 1996.

The Occupational Therapy Program is part of the School of Health Sciences, 313 Everett L. Marshall Building, 734.487.4096