Fiona Cole

  • Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, Institute of Health
  • Institute of Health
  • Mental Health Research Group
  • Health and Wellbeing
 Fiona Cole


I qualified as an occupational therapist in 1987. The majority of my practice experiences were working in community services for people in mental health recovery in Cumbria and also in Canada. I also worked in rehabilitation settings for people with physical and vocational needs, including consultant work in private practice.

I joined the University of Cumbria in 2004 when it was still St Martin’s College, as a Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, and I am based in Lancaster. I am also part of the teaching team for the MSc Occupational Therapy (pre-registration) programme  in Carlisle.

I am passionate about educating people of the value of being actively engaged in occupations of any sort (not just the occupation of work) for its positive impact on health and wellbeing. My research interests are in enabling people to be physically active, and the health benefits of the outdoors and nature-based interventions. 

Outside of work I am enthusiastic about being in the outdoors, especially the Lake District of Cumbria, and physical activities such as running, cycling and swimming, and just being in the hills and mountains in general.

Qualifications and memberships

  • BSc (Hons) Geography
  • Dip College of Occupational Therapists
  • Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, Registration Examination
  • MSc Rehabilitation Studies
  • PGC Learning & Teaching in Higher Education
  • Member of the British Association of Occupational Therapists; and College of Occupational Therapists Specialist Section: Mental Health
  • Registered with Health and Care Professions Council
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Academic and research interests

Research and scholarly activity related to enabling occupational engagement in physical activities / nature based activities for health and wellbeing.


Christie, M. Cole, F. & Miller, P. K. (2020). A Piloted Think Aloud Method Within an Investigation of the Impacts of a Therapeutic Green Exercise Project for People Recovering from Mental Ill-Health: Reflections on Ethnographic Utility. Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture Vol. 30 (1), AHTA.


Royal College of Occupational Therapists Annual Conference, Birmingham June 2017:

  •  Carr, R & Cole F (2017) An Evaluation of a Role Emerging Placement in a Mental Health Horticultural Community. Facilitated poster session.

King P & Cole F (2017) Care giving in early adulthood: an exploration into the occupational engagement of young adult carers. Poster

  • Christie, M., & Cole, F. (2016) The impact of green exercise on volunteers’ mental health and wellbeing – findings from a community project in a woodland setting. Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture 11 (2) 17-31
  • Christie, M., Thompson, M., Miller, P., Cole, F. (2016) Personality disorder and intellectual disability: the impacts of horticultural therapy within a medium secure unit. Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture, Vol. 26(1) 3-17
  •  College of Occupational Therapists Annual Conference, Harrogate June 2016 – Paper presentations:
    • Cole F, Christie M, (2016) Occupational engagement in a woodland: belonging and wellbeing for mental health.
    • Youngson A, Wilby H, Cole F, Cox D (2016) Conceptualising diabetes self-management as an Occupation.
    • Roberts S, Cole F, (2016) Disclosure of lesbian, gay and bisexual identity, what do we need to know
  • Youngson, A., Cole, F., Wilby, H., Cox, D. (2015) The lived experience of diabetes: Conceptualisation using a metaphor. The British Journal of Occupational Therapy 78, 1, 24-32
  • Cole, F (2014) Physical activity for mental health and wellbeing. In: Bryant, W., Fieldhouse, J., Bannigan, K. (eds) Creek's Occupational Therapy and Mental Health (5th edn). Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier: Edinburgh pp 205-223 
  • Cole, F. (2010) Physical activity for its mental health benefits: conceptualising participation within the Model of Human Occupation. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 73(12), 607-615

Recent external roles

  • Peer reviewer for the British Journal of Occupational Therapy
  • Peer reviewer for Journal of Mental Health
  • Peer reviewer for Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy