Recovery As the Re-fabrication of Everyday Life: Exploring the Meaning of Doing for People Recovering From Mental Illness

Sutton, Daniel
Hocking, Clare
Smythe, Liz
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

The notion of recovery from mental illness has become a significant force in mental health policy, practice and literature. As a process, recovery can been described as the lived experience of personal growth and search for meaning after the onset of mental illness. The following phenomenological inquiry seeks to understand the meaning of day-to-day activities for 13 people in recovery from mental illness. In the recovery literature there has recently been a growing interest in the everyday aspects of recovery. Routine interactions between people and the human and non-human environment have been recognised as being significant in the recovery process. Additionally, there has been a call within occupational therapy literature for research focused on exploring the experience and meaning of different forms of occupation. This study aims to address and add to these areas of interest within the current literature. Recovery narratives were collected from the participants in two phases, using an open ended conversational style of interview. The first phase focused on gathering stories that reflected the lived experience of recovery for eight participants. The recorded interviews were transcribed and analysed using the hermeneutic philosophy of Martin Heidegger. In the second phase of interviewing a further five participants shared their stories. In this round the conversations were focused on some of the dynamics of activity and recovery that had emerged as broad themes in the first phase. This allowed further depth to be added to the data and subsequent analysis. The interpretation focused on descriptions of engagement in activity during different periods of the participants’ recovery journeys. It was important to dwell with the stories and allow themes of experience and meaning to emerge. Particular phrases and words were highlighted and their meaning explored if they showed something of the participants’ lived experience. Through a process of writing, reflecting and re-writing the findings were refined and clarified over time. Everyday activity was found to be an important medium for change as well as a recovery outcome in itself. Findings add to existing understandings about occupation as a medium for healing and transformation within the context of recovery from mental illness. In particular, the study highlights the dynamics at play in different modes of doing and the way in which carers can influence the experience and meaning of activity.

Mental illness , Recovery , Phenomenology , Heidegger , Occupation , Meaningful activity
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