Rethinking occupation in research and clinical practice: Joining people, places and meaning

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Keyword: Medical and Health Sciences, Health Sciences, Occupational Therapy, Medicin och hälsovetenskap, Hälsovetenskaper, Arbetsterapi, Occupational therapy
Publication year: 2012
Relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
SDG 16 Peace, justice and strong institutionsSDG 11 Sustainable cities and communitiesSDG 10 Reduced inequalities
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Josephsson S, Alsaker S, Isaksson G, Lindström M, Aldrich R, Nyman A. Rethinking occupation in research and clinical practice: Joining people, places and meaning. Discussion Forum at Conference: SSO: USA; Society for the Study of occupation: USA, October 2012.

Recent developments in occupational science conceptualize occupation and its relation to place in terms of dynamic processes rather than components and structures. It could be phrased as a move from what occupation is to how it works. There has been a simultaneous trend of challenging the view of occupation as residing within individuals. Combining these two developments, occupation may now be conceptualized as emerging from situations that encompass transactions of person, culture, environment, and more. The aim of this panel is to reflect and discuss the consequence of this shift for occupation-based research and practice. Based on the included papers we will argue for the need of a less individual and static conceptualization of occupation and we will consider possible ways on how such shift of conceptualization can be achieved. The panel will include five papers: Sissel Alsaker will present research on enacted meaning using a narrative– in – action approach among women in Norway with chronic rheumatic condition. She will argue for how narrative – in – action might be an analytic resource to access occupation as ongoing processes rather than in terms of static characteristics. Maria Lindström will discuss based on her intervention research on persons with persistent mental illness, showing how the lack of a social conceptualization of occupation can decrease the visibility of certain research results. Gunilla Isaksson will base her reasoning on a narrative study on how men living with women with spinal cord injury experienced and acted in the complex process of change they went through after the women’s injury and how support was acted among them and their social network. Rebecca Aldrich will discuss the relationship of process and occupation’s social nature, as exemplified by data on routines from ethnographic research on North Carolinian discouraged workers. Finally, Anneli Nyman will demonstrate drawing from an ongoing study on social processes of participation among elderly women with depression and using narrative analysis on interview data, how enacted togetherness can be a resource for occupation-based practice with persons under such conditions. References: Aldrich, R. & Dickie, V. (In press): “It’s hard to plan your day when you have no money”: Discouraged workers’ occupational possibilities and the need to reconceptualize routine. Work, A Journal of Prevention, Assessment, and Rehabilitation. Alsaker, S. & Josephsson, S. (2010) Occupation and meaning: Narrative in everyday activities of women with chronic rheumatic conditions. OTJR – Occupation, Participation and Health, 30(2), 58-67). Lindström, M (2011) Promoting agency among people with severe psychiatric disability: occupation-oriented interventions in home and community settings. (Doctoral dissertation). Umeå University Key words: occupation; social; process; unit of analyses Discussion: -Why is it important for occupational science research to rethink how we conceptualize occupation? -What can a contextual, process-oriented and multifaceted conceptualization of occupation mean in occupational science research as well as clinical practice? -What are the consequences of such conceptualizations for how we measure and assess outcomes in research as well as in practice?


Anneli Nyman

Luleå tekniska universitet; Hälsa och rehabilitering
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Gunilla Isaksson

Luleå tekniska universitet; Hälsa och rehabilitering
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Staffan Josephsson

Karolinska Institutet
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Sissel Alsaker

Norwegian University of Science and Technology
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Maria Lindström

Umeå Universitet
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Rebecca Aldrich

University of southern California
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