Meet Jessica Neff. Jessica is a third-year student in Drake's Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program. In her final year of the program, Jessica is completing a capstone experience at Saint Louis University's (SLU) Occupational Therapy Transition and Integration Services in St. Louis, Missouri.
I split my time between conducting research and working with clients formerly or currently incarcerated. I am assisting with a retrospective analysis research project on the assessment of occupations with adults who were juveniles when sentenced to life without parole (JLWOP). Additionally, I am building a small caseload of clients who are currently incarcerated and preparing for release to the community. A typical day begins with reviewing journal articles for the project manuscript and performing qualitative coding and analysis for the occupations dataset. Additionally, I spend part of my time working with clients and providing them with materials and resources to assist in their reentry process.
The Drake OTD program has a focus on mental health, and I believe this has prepared me to work in a number of different settings, especially a justice-based setting. In addition, the didactic coursework at Drake involves a great deal of research and a focus on client-centered, evidence-based practice, which has well prepared me to assist with conducting research on my capstone experience.
I have always been interested in the carceral system, even before I knew what occupational therapy was. Once I learned that occupational therapy is emerging in corrections, I knew I had found the direction in which I wanted to take my career. Having this opportunity to complete my Doctoral Capstone in a justice-based setting has allowed me to combine my two passions into one and to reach out to a population that is otherwise forgotten.