A phenomenological study of occupational engagement in recovery from mental illness

Sutton, D
Hocking, C
Smythe, L
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Journal Article
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This study aimed to uncover the meaning of occupation for 13 people who self identified as being in recovery from mental illness. Recovery narratives were collected from the participants in a series of open ended conversational interviews that were recorded and transcribed. The interview transcripts were analysed using phenomenological and hermeneutic approaches, with a focus on participants’ descriptions of engagement in everyday occupations. A range of experiences were evident, from complete disengagement to complete absorption in occupations. Participants described significant shifts in their experience of time, space, body and other people while in different modes of occupation and these were captured under the themes of ‘non-doing’, ‘half-doing’, ‘engaged doing’ and ‘absorbed doing’. Each mode had the potential to support recovery by creating opportunities for participants to reconnect with aspects of their being-in-the-world. The findings highlight the dynamics at play in different modes of occupation and suggest that all forms of engagement, including disengagement, can be significant in the recovery process. A greater understanding of the dynamics of occupation for people experiencing mental illness will enable carers and mental health services to more effectively support people in their recovery.

Mental illness , Recovery , Meaning of occupation , Experience of occupation
Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 79, 142-150.
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Authors retain the right to place his/her pre-publication version of the work on a personal website or institutional repository. This article may not exactly replicate the final version published. It is not the copy of record. The final, definitive version of this paper has been published by SAGE Publications Ltd. All rights reserved. © 2012. (please see Citation and Publisher’s Version). .