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Ph.D. in Therapeutic Science

Who is this program for?

Our program is designed for motivated students with a research-focused interest in exploring the intersection of activities, disability and quality of life through an integrated, interdisciplinary course of study.

Our applicants typically have already obtained a research-based academic or professional master's degree and may have a professional credential or identity (e.g., occupational therapist, recreational therapist, speech-language pathologist, social worker, clinical psychologist, special educator).

Many of our current therapeutic science doctoral students continue to work in their chosen field while enrolled in the program. We support these different approaches to learning by offering evening and online classes.

Program Overview

In this program, we evaluate the connection between impairment, activity, social participation and other factors to understand the impact of disability on an individual's life. We strategically approach options for improving each person's engagement with his or her physical, social and psychological environments.

Given these complex and changing variables, an interdisciplinary approach creates effective ways to produce systematic knowledge leading to improvements in quality of life for individuals with disabilities and for their families. This approach requires a "melding of knowledge from several disciplines to understand the fundamental nature of the enabling-disabling process, that is, how disabling conditions develop, progress, and reverse, and how biological, behavioral, and environmental factors can affect these transitions" (Brant & Pope, 1997, p.4).

Combining evidence-based knowledge with an informed understanding of an individual’s goals and contexts can produce strategies to prevent or eliminate functional impairments.

Within the program, you will study and implement processes of knowledge generation and translate these into practice. This insight and skill set will fundamentally enhance your approach to a professional career supporting people with disabilities, their families and their communities.

Research Areas of Study

At the University of Kansas, faculty are actively engaged in multidisciplinary research to positively impact the lives of people in our community and across the world. Their work also provides KU students the opportunity to gain critical skills in evidence-based interventions to incorporate into future health care.

Explore our current faculty research initiatives.


KU's doctoral degree program in therapeutic science does not provide eligibility for professional licensing for employment. As a research program, credentialing for health care practice does not apply to this program.

"Being passionate about my own recreational pursuits, particularly swimming, and having early contact with individuals with disabilities helped me discover the field of recreational therapy. As I engaged in clinical practice, I met challenges that compelled me to pursue a master’s degree and then a doctorate in therapeutic science. With my Ph.D. in therapeutic science from KU, I was able to build clinical practice, research and teaching around a recreational activity that I love."
KU School of Health Professions

Occupational Therapy Education
KU Medical Center
3901 Rainbow Blvd  MS2003
Kansas City, KS 66160
913-588-7195 • 711 TTY