Noralyn Pickens, PhD, OT

Professor and Associate Director, Dallas Center and Denton Campus

Noralyn Pickens


IHSD 8515
5500 Southwestern Medical Avenue
Dallas, TX 75235

Research Foci

My scholarship emphasizes my value of supporting clients’ occupational engagement in context. One cannot consider occupational performance without the understanding of how the social and physical environments along with the cultural, temporal, virtual, and political / economic contexts impact the daily activities and lives of our clients and their families. I am interested in how people naturally engage in occupation as supported by their contexts and how as occupational therapists we can support people in the occupational roles in the home and community environments, whatever stage of life or living situation.

My primary research line is in aging in place, specifically reasoning processes involved in home safety assessment and environmental modification. My second line of research is in end-of-life care. I am interested in how health care providers can improve care for those who are dying and those who care for them (professional and family). Specifically I am interested in how occupation supports end of life tasks.

Current Project

NIDILRR 3 year award. Co-PI with Dr. Roger Smith (Univ. Wisconsin-Milwaukee, R2D2 Center). Development of a Multi-faceted Software Evaluation for Home Reintegration: There’s an App for That? Along with Dr. Rochelle Mendonca of Temple University and Dr. Suzanne Burns, Medical University if South Carolina, we are in development of a new technology-based assessment and documentation system, called HESTIA. HESTIA will provide an in-depth multi-faceted assessment to identify problems in the home environment that hamper a person’s ability to successfully live as independently as possible. The purpose of this system, and long-term goal of this project, is to get a user friendly, thorough, yet efficient home environment assessment in that hands of therapists to enable living and aging at home.

Research Partners

Roger O. Smith, PhD, OT, FAOTA, RESNA Fellow, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Rochelle Mendonca, PhD, OTR, Temple University

Suzanne Burns, PhD, OTR, Post-doctoral fellow at Medical University of South Carolina


PhD University of Wisconsin-Madison, Kinesiology: Therapeutic Sciences, 2001
MS University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Educational Psychology, 1996
BS University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Occupational Therapy, 1987


(Recent, research areas, non-committee) (see full CV for other papers)

Mendonca, R., Pickens, N., & Smith, R. O. (2017). Environmental modifications: Ethics of assessment and intervention. Practical Applications for the Occupational Therapy Code of Ethics (2015). AOTA Press. 

Pickens, N. & Burns, S. (2015). Home Modifications. In Barbara Boyt Schell and John Schell (Eds.), Clinical and professional reasoning in occupational therapy, 2nd edition.  

Jewell, V. & Pickens, N. D. (2016). Psychometric Evaluation of the Occupation-Centered Intervention Assessment. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health: Latest Trends and Research in Occupational Therapy, 37 (2), 82-88, doi: 10.1177/1539449216688619.

Burns, S. P., Pickens, N. D., & Smith, R. O. (2017). Client-Centered Reasoning Processes in Home Modification Interventions: Implications for Interdisciplinary Teams. Journal of Housing for the Elderly, 31., doi: 10.1080/02763893.2017.1280579.

Burns, S. P. & Pickens, N. D. (2016). Embedding Technology into Inter-professional Best-practice Home Safety Evaluation. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 11 (6), 585-591, doi: 10.1080/17483107.2016.1189000.

Struckmeyer, L. & Pickens, N. D. (2015). Home Modifications for People with Alzheimer's Disease: A Scoping Review.   American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 70. 7001270020p1-7001270020p9, doi: 10.5014/ajot.2015.016089.

Jewell, V. D., Pickens, N. D., Hersch, G., & Jensen, G. (2015). An exploration into occupation-centered practice in skilled nursing facilities. Physical & Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics: Current Trends in Geriatric Rehabilitation, 34 (1), 43-56, doi: 10.3109/02703181.2015.1114062.

Pickens, N. & Long, T. (2016, in press). AOTA Continuing Education Article: Best practice: Occupational therapists working with caregivers in palliative and end-of-life care," Occupational Therapy Practice. 22 (3), CE1-CE7. (Invited)

DuBroc, W. & Pickens, N. (2014). Becoming at home in home modifications: Comparing the professional reasoning skills of novice and expert therapists. Occupational Therapy in Health Care.  1-14. DOI: 10.3109/07380577.2015.1010129

Jackson, L. & Pickens, N. (2013). A masterpiece of service learning in fall prevention. Occupational Therapy Practice.

Pickens, N. (2011). Grief and Bereavement. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health: A Vision for Participation(pp. 764-772). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis.

Pickens, N., O'Reilly, K., & Sharp, K. (2010). Family caregiving at end of life: Dimensions of Occupation. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 77 (4), 230-236.

Weeks, A. L., Lamb, E. A., & Pickens, N. D. (2010). Home Modification Assessments: Clinical Utility and Treatment Context. Physical & Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics: Current Trends in Geriatric Rehabilitation,28 (4), 396409.


2014-2017 Pickens, N. Development of a Multi-Focal app for home reintegration: There's an app for that? -Subcontract with Univ of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (TWU $107,563 of $600,000 total project fund), Co-Principal Investigator, GOV-National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).
2010: Neville-Smith, M. & Pickens, N., Health Promotion and Social Participation Needs for Stroke Survivors ($520.00), Co-Principal Investigator, TWU Small Grants Competition.
2009: Pickens, N. Comparing the Impact of Home Modifications, Exercise, and Social Visits on Performance of Activities of Daily Living: A Pilot Study ($6,818.00), Principal Investigator, Texas Woman's University Research Enhancement Funds.

Current PhD Students

  • Carol Rice – Dementia, assisted living facilities, habits around hydration and relationship to hospitalization
  • Janice Chow – Veteran’s end-of-life care
  • M. Heather McKay – Dementia, caregiving, and end-of-life care
  • Boguslawa Syrotiak – Retirement transitions and aging in place

PhD Graduates

  • Aimee Piller, PhD, OTR, Owner, Piller Pediatrics. Dissertation: Development of Measure of Classroom Sensory Environment, 2016
  • Jessica Lampert, PhD, OTR, Dissertation: Social Participation of Visually Impaired Students. 2015.
  • Linda Struckmeyer – PhD, OTR, Clinical Lecturer, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. Dissertation: Development, reliability and validity of the home environmental assessment protocol – revised,  2016
  • Vanessa Jewell, PhD, OTR, Assistant Professor, Creighton University, Omaha, NE, Dissertation: Occupation-centered practice in skilled nursing facilities: Myth or reality? 2015

Page last updated 10:39 AM, October 19, 2017