Senior Lecturer, Occupational Therapy


Division: Occupational Therapy & Arts Therapies

Tel: 0131 474 0000

Heather is a Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh where she has been involved in teaching and learning since 1997.

  • Overview
  • Research Interests
  • Research Publications
  • Teaching & Learning
  • Activities & Awards

Heather was Programme Leader of the BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy programme from 2009-2017 and currently teaches across undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and coordinates level 1 of the undergraduate occupational therapy programme. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and completed her MSc (Education) with distinction at the University of Edinburgh. Heather is also an experienced external examiner and invited curriculum development adviser and external panelist at validation events.

Heather is completing her doctoral studies (PhD) using Participatory Action Research (PAR) with people with lived experience of mental illness to explore the ways in which voluntary work may impact on people’s lives. Her scholarly interests are wide ranging and include participatory research approaches with marginalised groups supporting social inclusion and occupational justice. She is also interested in understanding and teaching mental health and mental illness; early infant development and life transitions; the impact of changing practice contexts; the value of reflexivity, personal worldview and the impact of unconscious processes in practice; group work practices and group dynamics; and curriculum development and best practice in learning, teaching and assessment.


Heather has significant experience working as a senior occupational therapy practitioner in adult mental health and child and adolescent mental health services (CAHMS). She trained in Analytic Group Work, Infant Observation and Therapeutic Skills with Children and Young People at the Scottish Institute of Human Relations; and trained in Solution Focused Brief Therapy. Heather currently holds a public appointment with the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service as a judicial General Member of the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland (MHTS) where she is involved in decision making about compulsory care and treatment under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003. The aims of the Tribunal are to provide a responsive, accessible, independent and impartial service where members adopt the core values of professionalism, independence, and inclusiveness in handling cases sensitively, taking full account of the needs and rights of individuals and in ensuring hearings are fair and impartial.

Heather’s doctoral study (PhD) is exploring the benefits and challenges of volunteering using participatory action research with people with lived experience of mental illness who are engaged in volunteering through personal choice.

Her previous research outputs include a qualitative phenomenological study exploring the professional socialisation of second year occupational therapy students (MSc Education, University of Edinburgh); and a two year ethnographic infant observation using participant observation to examine the experience of the first two years of life in a family setting (Scottish Institute of Human Relations).

In addition, Heather has been an invited speaker on insights from ethnography and participant observation research methods at Brunel University, London; She was commissioned by RCOT to review best practice for work based learning opportunities for students; and has delivered interdisciplinary seminars with the local CAMHS service. She has delivered a number of international conference presentations and workshops, most recently at the World Federation of Occupational Therapists Congress (WFOT) Cape Town, South Africa in 2018; and ECArTE European Arts Therapies Conference, Krakow, Poland in 2017.

Active Research Interests:

  • Participatory approaches to research
  • Mental Health
  • Volunteering
  • Working in Borderline Times
  • Occupational Science and occupational Justice
  • Activism and Advocacy
  • Life Transitions
  • Childhood studies
  • Psychodynamic and psychoanalytic approaches to practice

Research Methods:

  • Participatory Action Research (PAR)
  • Critical – emancipatory research
  • Qualitative methodologies including participant observation/ ethnography; phenomenology and narrative.
  • Arts based methods

Affiliations/ memberships to other organisations:

Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy; General Member, Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland; RCOT; HCPC Registered.

Heather is also an Affiliate member of the  Centre for Applied Social Sciences



Please see my research publications in eResearch – Queen Margaret University’s repository

Heather is level leader for the first year undergraduate occupational therapy students and enjoys supporting students in their transition to University. Heather lectures in a range of topics including mental health and mental illness, communication skills and professional behavior, ethics and anti-oppressive practice, reflexivity and social constructionism, changing practice contexts and childhood studies. She is a personal academic tutor and undergraduate and post-graduate dissertation supervisor. In addition, Heather coordinates ERASMUS+ student and staff exchanges with Metropol University, Copenhagen, Denmark. Heather is committed to effective learning, teaching and assessment practices and her teaching style is passionate, interactive and supportive of different learning styles.

2015: Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy

2013: Senior Lecturer, QMU