Experiencing the relationship: the client and the community occupational therapist. A phenomenological study

Paddy, Ann
Wright-St. Clair, Valerie
Smythe, Elizabeth
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Master of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

While the therapeutic relationship between clients and therapists has been explored from the therapist perspective, few studies show the client view. This qualitative study reveals the experience of ‘being in the relationship’ from the viewpoint of both people with physical disabilities and community occupational therapists.

The philosophy underpinning the research and analysis is that of Heideggerian hermeneutic phenomenology. This approach is used in order to reveal the significance of taken-for-granted aspects of the relationship that lie hidden, covered over by everyday assumptions. Study participants include five clients, and six therapists, who have a depth of experience of the relationship being examined. In-depth narrative audio-taped interviews are used. The stories tell of participants’ experience of interacting with each other in relationships that work well for them and in ones that do not.

The findings of this thesis show that clients recognize previously hidden aspects of the relationship, frequently unacknowledged by therapists, such as the importance of the therapist’s persona and the significance of therapists’ actions to clients’ perception of their own value. What happens when the therapist is not with the client matters within their relationship. The differing modes of care therapists use influence clients’ well being. Therapists need to acknowledge the effect of their prejudices and ‘personal selves’ in their interaction with clients, and the breadth and depth of their ‘professional role’ within therapeutic relationships. They need to be open to recognizing when the relationship is unsatisfactory for the client. For it is therapists who hold the key to accessing future possibilities including resources. When the relationship fails, it will be the client who loses out.

Community , People who have a disability , Occupational therapist , Relationship , Heidegger , Phenomenology
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