Melinda Suto, PhD, MA (OT), BSc (OT)

Profile portrait of Melinda Suto.

Associate Professor Emerita


I immigrated to Canada after graduating from San José State University. After my first occupational therapist position with children who had profound developmental disabilities, I worked at Burnaby Mental Health Day Program for five years. Intellectual curiosity prompted a return to school where I received a MA in Occupational Therapy from the University of Southern California, supervised by anthropologist Dr. Gelya Frank.

While teaching in the School of Rehabilitation Sciences at UBC, I completed a PhD in Educational Studies. I have a long-standing interest in how people use time, particularly moments that are unencumbered by the demands of employment.

When those moments (or days) arise, I enjoy bicycling, traveling, seeing films, gardening, practicing yoga, training my dog, and getting away from the computer.


My research interests involve mental health and illness; stigma and recovery; conceptualizing leisure and how participation is shaped by transitions, environments, and beliefs; and exploring how the occupation of gardening contributes to the well-being of individuals and communities. As well, I am interested in how living with bipolar disorder influences people’s leisure, work and friendship occupations.

I conduct qualitative and mixed methods research and works using community-based and community-engaged research approaches. Most recently, I examined the potential of community gardening to influence well-being for individuals with long-term mental health issues. I am a founding member of the Collaborative Research Team to study psychosocial issues in Bipolar Disorder ( I value working in this well-functioning, interdisciplinary group of researchers led by Dr. Erin Michalak. With Dr. Michalak and other team members, I completed a Delphi concensus study of self-management strategies that individuals with bipolar disorders use to stay well.


I take a constructivist approach to teaching and learning. This is characterized by a recognition that learning is a dynamic process and that there are multiple perspectives possible to understand phenomena (people, problems, circumstances). A person who seeks to ‘know” something achieves this, in part, by analyzing and interpreting her or his experiences and interactions with environments. Rather than receiving or replicating knowledge from authorities, learners take responsibility for constructing knowledge through participation in and reflection on selected activities. Mistakes made in applying principles or using concepts effectively offer opportunities for dialogue and exploration of the learner’s thinking processes, and potential adjustment of the instructor’s approach.

I have considerable interest and experience with teaching and learning in the following areas:

  • Mental health issues (especially mood disorders and schizophrenia) and their impact on occupations
  • Qualitative methodologies and research methods
  • Occupational therapy theory (leisure) and occupational performance components (affective, cognitive)
  • Interpersonal communication; group dynamics and group facilitation

I was awarded a UBC Killam Teaching Prize in 2008.


  • Member, American Occupational Therapy Association
  • Member, Canadian Society of Occupational Scientists
  • Member, Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
  • Member, College of Occupational Therapists of British Columbia
  • Member, Collaborative RESearch Team to study psychosocial issues in Bipolar Disorder (CREST.BD)
  • Member, Society for the Study of Occupation, USA

Select Publications

*link to articles provided when possible*

Gerlach, A.J., Browne, A.J., & Suto, M.J. Relational approaches to fostering health equity for Indigenous children through early childhood intervention. Health Sociology Review. E-pub, September 27, 2016 doi: 10.1080/14461242.2016.1231582

Scalzo, K., Forwell, S.J., & Suto, M.J. (2016). An integrative review of exploring transition following an unexpected health-related trauma. Journal of Occupational Science, 23(4), 464-483. doi:10.1080/14427591.2016.1223742

Michalak, E.E., Suto, M.J., Barnes, S.J., Hou, S., Lapsley, S., Scott, M., Murray, G., Austin, J., Elliott, N.B., Berk, L., & CREST.BD (2016). Effective self-management strategies for bipolar disorder: A community-engaged Delphi Consensus Consultation study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 206, 77-86.

Lapsley, S., Suto, M.J., Barnes, S.J., Scott, M., Hou, S., & Michalak, E.E. The Delphi Consensus Consultation method: Using community engagement to identify effective self-management strategies for bipolar disorder. In press, SAGE Research Methods Cases, May 17, 2016.

Lal, S., Ungar, M., Malla, A.K., Leggo, C., & Suto, M. (2015). Impact of mental health services on resilience in youth with first episode psychosis: A qualitative study. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research. doi: 10.1007/s10488-015-0703-4 e off print version

Theurer, K., Mortenson, W.B., Stone, R., Suto, M.J., Timonen, V., & Rozanova, J. (2015). The need for a social revolution in residential care. Journal of Aging Studies, 35, 201-210.
Article reviewed in Psychology Today

Wrobleski, T., Walker, G., Jarus-Hakak, A., & Suto, M.J. (2015). Peer support as a catalyst for recovery: A mixed methods study. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 82, 64-73. doi:10.1177/0008417414551784

Tse, S., Yan, Y., & Suto, M. (2014). Expected possible selves and coping skills among young and middle-aged adults with bipolar disorder. East Asian Archives of Psychiatry, 24, 117-124.

Wrobleski, T., Walker, G., Jarus-Hakak, A., & Suto, M.J. (2014). Peer support as a catalyst for recovery: A mixed methods study. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy. doi: 10.1177/0008417414551784, 82, 64-73.

Gerlach, A., Browne, A. J., & Suto, M. J. (2014). A critical reframing of play in relation to Indigenous children in Canada. Journal of Occupational Science, 21, 243-258. doi: 10.1080/14427591.2014.908818

Suto, M.J. & Smith, S. (2014). Spirituality in Bedlam: Exploring professional conversations on acute psychiatric units. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81, 18-28. doi: 10.1177/0008417413516931

Smith, S., & Suto, M.J. (2014). Spirituality in Bedlam: Exploring patient conversations on acute psychiatric units. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81, 8-17. doi: 10.1177/0008417413516932

Lal, S., Ungar, M., Malla, A.K., Frankish, J., & Suto, M.J. (2014). Meanings of well-being from the perspectives of youth recently diagnosed with psychosis. Journal of Mental Health, 23(1), 25-30. doi: 10.3109/09638237.2013.841866

Lal, S., Ungar, M., Leggo, C., Malla, A.K., Frankish, J., & Suto, M.J. (2013). Well-being and engagement in valued activities: Experiences of youth with psychosis. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health, 33, 190-197. doi 10.3928/15394492-20130912-02

Suto, M.J. (2013). Leisure Participation and Well-Being of Immigrant Women in Canada. Journal of Occupational Science, 20(1), 48-61.

Watters, A.M., Pearce, C., Backman, C.L., & Suto, M.J. Occupational engagement and meaning: Experience of Ikebana Practice. Journal of Occupational Science. E-print, August 3, 2012.

Lal, S., Jarus, T., & Suto, M.J. (2012). A scoping review of the Photovoice method: Implications for occupational therapy research. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 79(3), 181-90.

Smith, S. & Suto, M.J. (2012). Religious and/or spiritual practices: Extending spiritual freedom to people with schizophrenia. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 79, 77-85.

Lal, S., Suto, M., & Ungar, M. (2012). Examining the potential of combining the methods of grounded theory and narrative inquiry. The Qualitative Report, 17(41), 1-22.

Suto, M., Livingston, J., Hole, R., Lapsley, S., Hinshaw, S.P., Hale, S., & Michalak, E.E. (2012). “Stigma Shrinks My Bubble:” A qualitative study of understandings and experiences of stigma in people with bipolar disorder. Stigma Research and Action, 2(2), 85-92.

Michalak, E.E., Livingston, J. D, Hole, R., Haddock, C., Suto, M., & Hale, S. (2011). “It’s something that I manage but it is not who I am.” Reflections on internalized stigma in individuals with bipolar disorder. Chronic Illness, 7(3), 209-224.

Hon, C., Sun, P., Suto, M., & Forwell, S.J. (2011). Moving from China to Canada: Occupational transitions of immigrant mothers of children with special needs. Journal of Occupational Science, 18(3), 223-236.

Horsman, M., Suto, M., Dudgeon, B., & Harris, S.R.(2010). Ageing with cerebral palsy: Psychosocial issues. Age and Ageing, 39(3), 294-299.

Murray, G., Suto, M., Hole, R., Hale, S., Amari, E., & Michalak, E.E. (2010). Self-management strategies used by ‘high functioning’ individuals with bipolar disorder: From research to clinical practice. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, epub ahead of print.

Suto, M., Murray, G., Hale, S., Amari, E., & Michalak, E.E. (2010). What works for people with bipolar disorder? Tips from the experts. Journal of Affective Disorders, 124, 76-84.

Suto, M. (2009). Compromised careers: The occupational transition of immigration and resettlement. WORK: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment and Rehabilitation, 32, 417-429.

Carpenter, C., & Suto, M. (2008). Qualitative research for occupational and physical therapists: A practical guide. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Suto, M. (2004). Exploring leisure meanings that inform client-centered practice. In K.W. Hammell & C. Carpenter (Eds.), Evidence-based rehabilitation: Informing practice through qualitative research (pp. 27-39). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Harcourt Brace.

Purves, B. & Suto, M. (2004). In limbo: Creating continuity of identity in a discharge planning unit. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71, 173-181.