Collective action and the transformation of occupational therapy practice

Nicholson, Ellen
Hocking, Clare
Jones, Marion
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Doctor of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

There is evidence of a growing tension within the occupational therapy profession regarding the legitimate knowledge and practice of occupational therapists. While occupation is described by many as the legitimate knowledge base for occupational therapy practice, the history of the profession, and the practice context, often appear to endorse accepted practices that are not overtly aligned with an occupational paradigm. Oppressive, dissatisfying and disempowering social conditions, revealed in the knowledge, power, and discourse which underpin occupational therapy practice, have likely further influenced the meaning and intention of occupational therapy practice with children and families over time.

This thesis describes a critical participatory action research project which sought to investigate and affect how occupational therapists working with children translated knowledge to inform and transform their practice. Embedded in shared concerns about the legitimacy of accepted practices with children and families, and using a contemporary occupational therapy theory as a framework, eight occupational therapy co-researchers engaged in two phases of critical action; deconstruction-planning and action-reconstruction. Positioned in between the phases, the resolution of a subjective quest for validation was revealed as a principal catalyst to transformative action. Practice stories and critical dialogue, gathered as project information, was reflectively analysed to progress both the dialogical inquiry and the transformative intent of the research.

Implications for practice drawn from the research findings include a suite of action-oriented strategies which will enable practitioners to discover and advance practice transformation within their own practice. These strategies have been consolidated into the VENIA model, which is presented as a practical solution to changing the practice of occupational therapists, and strengthening the political agenda of the occupational therapy profession.

Occupation-based practice , Children and families , Critical participatory action , Knowledge translation
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