Occupational Science 2013
Lecture Four: occupation and
Identity, finding meaning and
What this Lecture will cover
• Definitions of Occupational Identity
• The link between occupation, identity and self-
• Meaning and purposeful activity
• Occupation and Health
• Occupation and individual and collective identity
• Links to Frameworks and Opinion Pieces
• Review of tasks to be completed prior to the
tutorial (reading, occupation choice)
How an individual sees the self in terms of
various occupational roles (rights, obligations
and expected behaviour patterns associated
with a particular set of activities or occupations
done on a regular basis and associated with
Christensen (1999, 2000, 2004). Four central
propositions about occupation and identity.
• Identity is shaped by relationships with others
• Identity is closely tied to our actions in
relation to others
• Identities provide cohesions, meaning and a
• Occupational identity is an essential element
in promoting life-satisfaction
Kielhofner (2002) describes
occupational identity as…
“a composite sense of who one is and wishes to
become as an occupational being generated from
one’s history of occupational participation”.
Occupational identity, he maintained, is shaped by
capacities and interests, roles and relationships,
obligations and routines, and by environmental
contexts and expectations. People’s volition, habits,
and lived, bodily experiences combine to create an
occupational identity that is a “means of self
definition and a blueprint for upcoming action”
• How one sees themselves in relation to what,
where, how and why they do. An identity
measured against our history, projections for the
future and fit within community and culture (our
belonging as framed by Reberio) Occupational
Scientists have called for greater attention to
socially and culturally orientated perspectives
(Molineux & Whiteford, 2006; Hammell, 2009)
• A positive perception of Occupational identity is
tied to ‘Occupational Satisfaction’: being satisfied
with their occupational performance or ability to
engage in ‘meaningful and purposeful activity’
Occupation is a strong enabler to know one’s
self. To know one’s self is to know one’s being.
One way that I know myself is through
occupation and one way that myself expresses
itself in the world is through occupation.
Occupation helps me answer questions such as:
What am I meant to do? Who am I meant to
be? Is the life I am living authentic? Am I
growing into my authentic selfhood? Is the life
I’m living the same as the life that wants to live
in me? (Palmer, 2000, p.2)
Meaning and Purposeful Activity
A positive occupational identity is tied to
engagement in meaningful and purposeful
activity. These are words OT throw around a
great deal. What do these terms actually mean?
• Occupation is generally assumed to be directed
towards a goal or purposeful
• Purpose may be playful, restful, serious,
• Purpose is subjectively experienced and the
product of human capabilities.
• OT often work toward enabling people to meet
environmental challenges and hence complete
purpose orientated activities as independently as
Meaning in Occupation
• Meaning goes beyond biological motivation
• Occupations hold social, symbolic and spiritual
• The meaning of occupations can vary over time in
• Meaning can be temporal and ecologically
contextualised (tied to time and place)
• Occupations carry cultural meanings. Occupations are
culturally embedded. That is they are known by other
members of the culture or subculture. They may also
be tied to prevailing political and religious ideologies
Occupation and Health
Occupational therapy core beliefs (this slide is from stage one)
• Health is more than the absence of disease
• Health is strongly influenced by having choice and control in
• Health has dimensions associated with spiritual meaning and
life satisfaction in occupations and social dimensions
associated with fairness and equal opportunity in occupations
How will this fit into your Framework
and Opinion Piece
• Understanding occupation is the focus of your
framework so where might occupational identity,
meaning, purpose and occupational satisfaction fit?
• We expect you to use OT language and literature in
your framework and opinion piece. Reading,
Understanding, Quoting and Paraphrasing
• In learning an occupation ask yourselves how it fits
with your occupational identity and that of others.
Capturing thoughts and examples in your record
keeping. These are the evidence you will apply in your
framework presentation and opinion piece.
Engagement in and recording of your chosen
occupation will have similarities to the
research strategy of participant observation.
Through involvement in the occupation we are
expecting you to come to an understanding of
the practices, requirements, roles, routines,
and purpose and meaning attributed to
ongoing active involvement. This will relate to
your own involvement and the involvement of
other individuals and communities.
Our frameworks are focused on describing the
value of engagement in meaningful
occupation and what it provides for
individuals and groups. Although we will be
discussing barriers to engagement (disruption
and dysfunction) our point of interest is on the
occupation/s as opposed to treatment of body
structure and components.
RICKY JAMES PERSEVERANCE
Expectation to be completed before
this weeks tutorial
• Completed reading tasks
• Have notes ready to discuss
• Have questions ready to ask
• Have examples ready to share from your
learnt occupation related to meaning, purpose
and identity. Referring back to Humanities
content may be helpful here.
• Be prepared for your practical task
Caulton, R.F. (ed). (2003). The best of occupation 1993-2003. Dunedin: Rogan McIndoe Print Ltd
Christensen, C. & Townsend, E. (Eds.), (2010). An Introduction to occupation: the Art and science of Living . Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice
Christiansen, C. (1999). Defining lives: Occupation as identity: An essay on competence, coherence and the creation of meaning. American
Journal of Occupational Therapy, 53, 547-558.
Hammell, K.W. (2004). Dimensions of meaning in the occupations of daily life. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71 (5).
Hocking, C. (2000). Occupational science: A stock take of accumulated insights. Journal of Occupational Science, 7 (2), p58-67.
Hasselkus, B.R. (2006). 2006 Eleanor Clark Slagle Lecture- The world of everyday occupation: real people real lives. American Journal of
Occupational Therapy, 60, 627-640
Howie, L. Coulter, M. & Feldman, S. (2004). Creating the self: older persons narratives of occupational identity. American Journal of
Occupational Therapy, 58, 446-454.
Kielhofner, Gary (1983). Health through occupation: Theory and practice in occupational therapy. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company
Phelan, P. & Kinsells, E.A. (2009). Occupational identity: Engaging socio-cultural perspectives. Journal of occupational science, 16, 85- 91.
Townsend, E.A., Whiteford, G., Polatajko, H.J., Craik, J. & Hocking, C. (2007). Enablement
continuum. In E.A. Townsend & H.J. Polatajko, Enabling occupation II: Advancing an
occupational therapy vision for health, wellbeing and justice through occupation (P.
129). Ottawa, ON:CAOT Publications ACE.
Wilcock, A.A. (1998a). Occupation for health. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 61,
Wilcock, A.A. (1998b). Reflections on doing, being becoming. Canadian Journal of
Occupational Therapy, 65, 248-256.
Wilcock, A.A. (1993). A theory of human need for occupation. Journal of Occupational
Science: Australia,1, 17-24.
Wilcock, A.A. (1998). An occupational perspective on health. Thorofare, NJ: Slack
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