A phenomenological study of occupational engagement in recovery from mental illness
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.