Brooks, Robert (2016) Occupational practice in children and young people's mental health. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The use of occupation in occupational therapy has been regularly debated in the profession’s
literature. More recently there has been a shift to consider occupation as the core construct
of occupational therapy, which informs assessments, interventions and outcomes; this can be described as occupational practice. Studies exploring occupational practice have been limited; this study has sought to address this gap.
This was a mixed methods study. First, a United Kingdom survey of occupational therapy
practice in children and young people’s mental health was conducted (n=27). The survey
findings were analysed using descriptive statistics. The survey was used as a sampling
platform for the second stage of the study. Underpinned by an ethnographic approach, the
second study used an observer of participant, interview and document collection methods to
explore occupational practice (n=2). A grounded theory approach was taken to data analysis.
The participants of the survey were 89% female, 49% were at a senior grade and 68% had been qualified for over 10 years. 81% worked in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services tier 3 or 4. 52% participants had an undergraduate degree in occupational therapy; 64% had no further specialist formal qualifications. Additional training in sensory integration therapy was reported by 34% of participants. The Model of Human Occupation was identified as the most frequently used model of practice. The Sensory Profile was the most regularly used assessment. The participants reported that their interventions commonly focused on talking style
therapies, psycho-education and group work.
The ethnographic study revealed a tension at the study sites between the medical psychological
and occupational practice discourses. To manage this tension, the participants used a generic and profession-specific practice to negotiate being ‘one of the team’ and being a ‘real occupational therapist’. Enacting occupational practice included using the Model of Human Occupation, referrals for occupational problems, conducting assessments of occupation, concluding occupational formulations, and using occupation as an intervention.
Interventions were characterised as ‘talking about doing’ or ‘doing occupation’ and utilised
strategies such as modelling, goal setting and setting a challenge.
The survey has offered a snapshot of occupational therapy practice. This may help the profession understand the demography and practices of the participants. The Occupational Practice Model for Children and Young People’s Mental Health, which has emerged from the ethnographic findings of this study, is presented as a tool to guide the use of occupation at the level of theory, perspective and intervention. Further qualitative studies are recommended to support the study findings and a systematic review is suggested to examine occupational therapy interventions in the field.

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