Teaching occupational therapy theory through personal narratives

Christopher McKenna

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


As therapists we do not have direct access to the experiences of others. According to Riessman (1993) we deal with ambiguous representations of it. This makes our work as therapists more difficult in a profession which demands ongoing interaction with others and where personal stories provide the framework in which we action a therapeutic intervention. Whilst in practice stories will provide an individual with the means to understand themselves (Frank 2010) they also provide the therapist with an understanding of how identity, occupation and meaning contribute to the individual’s concept of self (Rapley 2007).
Having taught the theoretical framework of occupational therapy for many years there is a constant challenge to make the engagement with such material meaningful and relevant. This year there has been a change in strategy whereby the application of the theory has been applied within the context of real individuals by engagement with personal narratives. These narratives were collected as part of a wider project and used as the basis for understanding and applying certain practice theories. Using the stories as a vehicle through which theoretical principles were applied students could take time to test, explore and understand the role of theory in relation to real stories. This was particularly evident when considering the models of occupational therapy. Students were more able to identify key factors within the narrative and without having to draw on their own personal experiences felt more able to question and challenge the lives of the story tellers. This poster explores that engagement and demonstrates how narratives can form an essential tool for training therapists in both higher education and professional practice contexts
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventCollege of Occupational Therapists Annual Conference 2016 - Harrogate International Centre, Harrogate, United Kingdom
Duration: 28 Jun 201630 Jun 2016
Conference number: 40


ConferenceCollege of Occupational Therapists Annual Conference 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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