Language, identity and representation: Occupation and occupational therapy in acute settings

Clare Wilding*, Gail Whiteford

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    38 Citations (Scopus)


    Aim: This article presents findings from a participatory action research study into the experience and use of occupation, theory and evidence in the everyday practice of a group of occupational therapists working in a large metropolitan hospital delivering a range of acute services, in Melbourne, Australia. Methods and findings: Narrative data gathered from 11 individual interviews and 10 group discussions were analysed through numerous iterative cycles to explore research issues and evaluate research actions. This article discusses why the participating occupational therapists chose to change the language they used to describe their practice from a focus on 'function' to a focus on 'occupation'. This change improved the therapists' levels of confidence, strengthened their professional identities and provided for a sense of renewed empowerment within the organisation. Conclusions: The findings suggest that occupational therapists in acute settings can utilise language more effectively to augment their ability to promote the vital and unique contribution that occupational therapy has to make. Such small, yet powerful changes can empower occupational therapists to address long-standing dilemmas of representation and enable transformative practices.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)180-187
    Number of pages8
    JournalAustralian Occupational Therapy Journal
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


    • Participatory research
    • Professional identity
    • Professional representation
    • Reflective practice


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