Occupational therapist and client experiences of a mental health group
Jones, Shirley E.
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The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand the client and occupational therapist experiences of a mental health group. A secondary aim was to explore the extent to which this group seemed to have reflected a client-centred approach. The topic emerged from personal and professional issues related to the therapist as teacher and to inconsistencies in practice with the profession's client-centred philosophy. This philosophy, the study's frame of reference, was established in terms of themes related to the client-therapist relationship and to client values. Typical practice was illustrated through an extensive literature review. Structured didacticexperiential methods aiming toward skill development were predominant. The interpretive sciences and, to a lesser extent, the critical sciences directed the methodology. An ongoing support group at a community mental health clinic was selected as the focus of the study; the occupational therapist leader and three members became the key participants. A series of conversational interviews, the . core method of data collection, was supplemented by observation, document review, further interviews, and fieldnotes. Transcriptions of conversations were returned to participants for verification and for further reflection. Analysis primarily consisted of coding and organizing data according to emerging themes. The participants' experiences of group, presented as narrative stories within a group session vignette, were also returned to participants. There was a common understanding of the group's structure and the importance of having "air time" within the group; however, differences in perceptions of such things as the importance of the group in members' lives were noted. All members valued the therapeutic aspects of group, the role of group as weekly activity and, to a lesser extent, the learning that came from group. The researcher's perspective provided a critique of the group experience from a client-centred perspective. Some areas of consistency with client-centred practice were noted (e.g., therapist attitudes); however the group seemed to function far from a client-centred ideal. Members held little authority in a relationship dominated by the leaders, and leader agendas rather than member values controlled the session. Possible reasons for this discrepancy ranging from past health care encounters through to co-leader discord emerged. The actual and potential significance of this study was discussed according to many areas of implications: to OT practice, especially client-centred group practice, to theory development, to further areas of research and methodology considerations, to people involved in the group and to my personal growth and development.