Deborah Harrison

Deborah Harrison


  • 1.16 Queens Building

If you made any changes in Pure these will be visible here soon.

Personal profile

Administrative Posts

  • Associate Director for Enterprise Family and Community Health Challenge Unit; School of Health Sciences


I am an occupational therapist with extensive experience working in the NHS, higher education and third sector organisations. My mission is to inspire, motivate and inform; enabling people to live life to the full. I believe that disability and disadvantage should not be a barrier to full participation and having a rewarding life.

I worked in the NHS in mental health services, mainly as a part of interprofessional community teams for 20 years. I have also held management and training roles in the NHS and higher education.

Since 2000 I have worked at the University of East Anglia where I teach occupational therapy in mental health practice, psychology and qualitative research. I was Director of Teaching and Learning in the School of Rehabilitation Sciences for 4 years. I am now Associate Director of Enterprise for the Family and Community Health Challenge Unit in the School of Health Sciences.

In 2015 I received a UEA Community Engagement Award for my voluntary work with military charities providing free consultancy on digital media and occupational therapy. I currently work with The Baton; supporting the military family - and Surf Action; providing evidence-based interventions for PTSD -  Follow me on twitter @DebbiiHarrison

Research Group Membership

Family and Community Health


Mental health; occupational therapy; combat injury



  • MSc Health Sciences
  • BA (Hons)
  • Dip COT
  • Member of the British Association of Occupational Therapists
  • Registered with Health and Care Professions Council

Research interests

  • Mental health
  • Combat injury
  • Occupational Science

Career summary

During the first 20 years of my career I worked in a variety of mental health settings, in the US, Cambridgeshire and Cornwall. After working in both rehabilitation and acute care I specialised in adult community mental health.

Teaching Interests

My teaching interests include integrating psychology and health psychology into the human sciences curriculum to promote a whole person approach in understanding the needs of the individual and in the provision of therapy. The biopsychosocial model currently underpins this teaching. I also teach mental health and aim to promote recovery models within the context of occupational therapy practice.

  • Human Sciences, Psychology & Health Psychology: BSc OT & PT, MSc OT & PT
  • Occupational Therapy Practice: Mental Health: BSc OT, MSc OT
  • Occupational Therapy Practice: Philosophies of Practice: BSc OT
  • Occupational Therapy & Physiotherapy Practice: Women’s Health: BSc OT & PT
  • Occupational Therapy & Physiotherapy Practice: Family Perspectives: BSc OT & PT

Key Research Interests and Expertise

My first research project at Masters level studied interprofessional working on a psychiatric intensive care unit. I completed the MSc in Health Sciences with an ethnographic study of an occupational therapist working in a community mental health team. This study used participant observation and interview to explore how an occupational therapist operates within the team and how they use their unique skills alongside generic mental health work. I worked with Dr Maggie McArthur on a funded evaluation of a Healthy Living Centre, using interviews and focus groups and then a similar evaluation of a Healthy Minds Centre. I have explored the experiences of people who have severe mental health difficulties when they engage with adult continuing education. 

Selected publications

Harrison D, Sellers A, 2008, ‘Occupation for mental health and social inclusion’, British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(5); 216-219.

Lambert R, Harrison D, Watson M, 2007, ‘Complexity, occupational therapy, unpredictability and the scientific method: a response to Creek et al (2005) and Duncan et al (2007), British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 70(12);534-536.

Harrison D, 2005, ‘Context of change in community mental health occupational therapy: Part 2’, International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 12(10); 444-448.

Harrison D, 2005, ‘Context of change in community mental health occupational therapy: Part 1’, International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 12(9); 396-399.

Harrison D, 2003, ‘The case for Generic Working in Mental Health Occupational Therapy’, British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66(3);110-112.

Harrison D, Hill S, 2003, ‘Mental health occupational therapy and cognitive behaviour therapy’, Mental Health Occupational Therapy, 8(3); 101 –105.

Harrison D, 2002, ‘Activities and multiprofessional teamwork on a psychiatric unit’, British Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 9(2); 46-50.


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Devlopment Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being