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KU Doctorate in Therapeutic Science Program

Therapeutic science is a field of study emphasizing an enhanced understanding of the consequences for an individual related to health conditions, rather than a study of the health condition itself.

KU offers a Ph.D. in therapeutic science degree as an interdisciplinary program involving faculty across a variety of departments and schools at the University of Kansas. This program provides the interdisciplinary training at a doctoral level, necessary to address a spectrum of issues related to health and disability.

The program is administered through the Department of Occupational Therapy Education in the KU School of Health Professions.

This program is designed for motivated students with a research-focused interest in exploring the intersection of activities, disability, and quality of life that requires an integrated, interdisciplinary course of study that cannot be provided by existing programs.

Typically, applicants will already have obtained research-based academic or professional master's degrees, and may have a professional credential or identity (e.g., occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, licensed clinical social worker, clinical psychologist, special educator). Many therapeutic science Ph.D. students currently work in their chosen field related to issues of disability and wish to generate knowledge to further the understanding of disability and to improve quality of life for individuals with disabilities and their families.

Areas of Study

  • Sensory processing in daily life.

  • Principles of universal design and other strategies to support aging-in-place.

  • Exploration of factors contributing to successful interprofessional education and practice.

  • Producing evidence to support integrated and novel approaches children and families in community settings, such as public schools, early intervention programs, day care centers, and the homes of families.

  • Response to Intervention, teacher-therapist collaboration, sensory processing, and self-regulation in the early childhood classroom.

  • Contextual influences on participation and self-determination for people with disabilities. 

  • Application of interdisciplinary, evidence-based research to early intervention practices designed for infants and toddlers.

  • Adopting and implementing telecommunication technology in support of fieldwork educators and students.

  • Study of the health, social, and behavioral benefits offered by recreation participation, particularly for vulnerable populations.

  • Developing and refining strategies to support people across the lifespan as they experience role transitions.

  • The role of the occupational therapist as consultant and as a member of interprofessional teams in health care, schools, and community settings.

  • Biobehavioral approaches characterizing early development of children with autism spectrum disorder in the context of their families to inform approaches to early intervention.

  • Biophysical and social risk factors for concussions and other causes of traumatic brain injury.

  • Accommodation models for community participation.

Program Overview

The interaction of impairment, activity, social participation, and a host of dynamic contextual factors provides a basis for understanding the impact of disability on an individual's life, and a means to strategically approach optimizing interaction of each person with his or her physical, social, and psychological environments.

Explore research projects pursued by past KU graduate students.

Given these complex and changing constellations of influences, adopting an interdisciplinary approach offers a potent means 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).

The evidence-based knowledge arising from an effective application of interdisciplinary principles coupled with an informed understanding of an individual’s goals and contexts can be synthesized to produce to strategies to prevent or remove functional impairments, and minimize disabling processes leading to further impairment and limitations.

Students in the program will study and implement processes of knowledge generation and translate these into practice. It is anticipated this insight and skill set will fundamentally enhance the student’s approach to a professional career supporting of people with disabilities, their families, and their communities.

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.

Last modified: Oct 14, 2020

Application Deadline:
December 1

Applications must be received by the application deadline to be considered for entry to the program. Courses begin the following fall semester.

Learn about this program:
Eligibility and requirements
Research programs
How to apply
Contact us
Program home

See also:

Student Handbook

MS in OT Thesis Handbook PDF document (image)

Information for Non-Degree-Seeking Students

Advising and campus visits are available Monday-Friday by appointment. Please email for information.

For advising on the KU Lawrence campus, please see the KU Undergraduate Advising Center.