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Doing occupation: A narrative inquiry into occupational therapists’ stories of occupation-based practice Open Access


Other title
occupational therapy
narrative inquiry
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Burwash, Susan C
Supervisor and department
Tammy Hopper (Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
Cary Brown (Occupational Therapy)
Examining committee member and department
Leah Phillips (Public Health, Concordia University College of Alberta)
D. Jean Clandinin (Elementary Education)
Cary Brown (Occupational Therapy
Tammy Hopper (Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology)
Diane Conrad (Secondary Education)
Janice Huber (Early Childhood Education, University of Regina)
Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine
Rehabilitation Science
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This narrative inquiry explores occupational therapists’ experiences of doing occupation – attempting to work in ways that are congruent with their professional commitment to using activities (occupations) as therapy, and focusing on enabling clients to participate in their valued occupations as the goal for therapy. The inquiry emerged from my own experiences as an occupational therapy clinician, manager and educator. Four occupational therapists with diverse experiences as occupational therapists shared their experiences of doing occupation during individual conversations with me and group discussions, over an eleven-month period in 2010 - 2011. Field texts included tape-recorded and transcribed conversations of individual and group discussions, field notes related to these conversations, a digital story created by one participant, journal entries, research poems and images, and collages made by two of the participants. Research texts were composed with each participant, in the form of narrative accounts that inquire into participants’ experiences, using the three-dimensional narrative inquiry space with dimensions of temporality, sociality, and place. Four wonders related to doing occupation that I marked as I looked across the four narrative accounts for resonance and for bumping up places are discussed further: (1) reaching for the real in practice, (2) identities, (3) complex issues related to the heart, mind and soul of occupational therapy (Wood, 2004) and, (4) participants’ strategies for resisting or escaping systemic pressures to practice in ways which are not compatible with their personal practical knowledge. These were explored through further inquiry into participants’ experiences and through looking at the occupational therapy/occupational science literature. The personal, practical and social implications of this inquiry are discussed – how my practices as an educator will change, how educators and clinicians might be able to use this inquiry to reflect on their practice experiences, and why and how narrative inquiry may provide a valuable methodological approach for occupational therapy and occupational sciences researchers.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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