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Occupational therapy and culture: a literature review

Conference contribution
Authors Daniela Castro
Synneve Dahlin-Ivanoff
Lena Mårtensson
Published in 16th International Congress of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists, 18-21 Juni 2014, Yokohama, Japan
Publication year 2014
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience and Rehabilitation
Centre for Ageing and Health (Agecap)
Language en
Keywords Nature of human occupation, Socio cultural factors, Theory and philosophy
Subject categories Occupational Therapy


Introduction: Culture and cultural issues appear increasingly often in research in the field of occupational therapy, reflecting both a growing interest in cultural diversity and a critical reflection on the culture of the discipline and its practices. As the term is difficult to define and has political and ethical implications, an investigation into its usage is warranted. Objectives: To identify and describe how “culture” has been used in occupational therapy research (2006-2011). Methods: A qualitative study has been carried out using an integrative literature review. 39 studies were included. Results: Two main categories emerged in the analysis. First one, expresses the multidimensional quality of culture, from the visible to invisible aspects; the importance of the cultural aspects to determine identity and membership to social groups; as well as temporal aspects. Second category, presents Occupational Therapy’s culture, from its theories to practice, as well as diverse paradoxes and gaps across the discipline. Conclusion: The meaning of what culture is for the profession has been contested, and there is a lack of agreement on their usage among researchers, given the strong western influences over its theoretical development. By approaching this issue critically, it is possible to gain a better perspective on culture as a complex phenomenon inside the discipline. Lack of critical insight increases the risk that occupational therapy remains satisfied with the current understanding of culture, correlated with the dominant western discourse, and fails to address urgent political, ethical and theoretical issues. Contribution to Occupational Therapy: Culture is a very complex phenomenon in occupational therapy. The study offers a critical approach over it, as a core concept for the discipline, considering the close relationship with occupation. If unequal power distribution in knowledge development worldwide is not addressed, political, ethical and theoretical issues will have a pervasive effect on the discipline.

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