occupational science, OTalk

#OTalk 25th November 2014 – Authentic Occupations

Authentic occupation

Date: 25/11/2014  Host: @geekyOT

Blog Post  –  Transcript

I came across an abstract of Mandy Graham’s (@OTLeeds) thesis – ‘Keeping it real: an explorative study into the use of authentic occupations within forensic occupational therapy’ – in the August issue of the British Journal of Occupational Therapy. She’s kindly agreed to host an #OTalk to help us reflect on/explore this topic. We’ve already had questions from our community about what makes an occupation ‘authentic’, so read on to find out!

As usual, the chat will take place on Twitter using the #OTalk hashtag at 8pm GMT (click the link to find out your local time). If you’re new to tweetchats, check out this guide from our #anzOTalk colleagues, and contact me (@geekyOT) if you need any extra help getting to grips with #OTalk.

– Clarissa

Authentic Occupations

“Authentic” occupations have been described as the things that people would do within their own “normal” cultural and environmental contexts, rather than artificially constructed occupations for “therapy” (Christiansen and Townsend 2004).

Research investigating the impact of the environment on occupational choice and experiences (Farnworth et al 2004; Stewart and Craik 2007) has highlighted the potential barriers to providing authentic and realistic occupations to individuals within secure care. A research study undertaken in 2010 investigated the experiences of three occupational therapists working within an NHS low secure forensic unit within Yorkshire, England (Graham 2014). Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was utilised in order to explore the nature and meaning of occupational therapists’ experiences, via semi-structured interviews, following approval from the South Yorkshire Research Ethics Committee (REC).

Following analysis of the data, four significant central themes were found – “It’s What it Says on the Box”; “The Locked Box”; “Thinking Outside the Box” and “Ticking the Right Boxes”. The study explored several different elements with participants including their understanding of the term authentic occupation; how they determined what is authentic for their service users; the usage of authentic occupations within treatment; and the barriers and supporting factors in the provision of authentic occupations within a secure setting. The use of authentic occupations has been described by some as an ethical obligation (Luebben 2003) and furthermore to be denied the opportunities to engage in occupations as cruel and unjust (Whiteford 2004). It is hoped that this #OTalk session will stimulate broader debate and discussion in order to support authentic occupational therapy practice of the future (Reed, Hocking, and Smythe 2013).


  • What does the term “authentic” mean to you?
  • How do OT’s utilise “authentic” occupations with their patients/clients/service users?
  • Do traditional OT settings facilitate or inhibit the use of “authentic” occupations?
  • What can we do to ensure that we understand what is truly “authentic” for our service users?


Christiansen, C. and Townsend, E. (2004) An Introduction to Occupation. In: Christiansen, C. and Townsend, E. (Eds.) Introduction to Occupation: The Art and Science of Living. Prentice Hall.

Farnworth, L. Nikitin, L. and Fossey, E. (2004) Being in a Secure Forensic Psychiatric Unit: Every Day is the Same, Killing Time or Making the Most of It. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67 (10), pp.430-438.

Graham, A. (2014) Keeping it real: an explorative study into the use of authentic occupations within forensic occupational therapy. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 77 (8), pp.421.

Luebben, A. (2003) Ethical Concerns: Human Occupation. In: Kramer, P., Hinojosa, J., and Royeen, C. Perspectives in Human Occupation – Participation in Life. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Reed, K. Hocking, C. Smythe, L. (2013) Exploring the meaning of occupation: The case for phenomenology. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy , 78 (5), pp.303-310.

Stewart, P. and Craik, C. (2007) Occupation, Mental Illness and Medium Security: Exploring Time-Use in Forensic Regional Secure Units. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 70 (10), pp.416-425.

Whiteford, G. (2004) When People Cannot Participate: Occupational Deprivation. In: Christiansen, C. and Townsend, E. (Eds.), An Introduction to Occupation: The Art and Science of Living. Prentice Hall.

The Numbers

880,173 Impressions
580 Tweets
63 Participants

#OTalk Participants

The chat transcript is available at this link, or you can download the PDF.

1 thought on “#OTalk 25th November 2014 – Authentic Occupations”

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