Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 2011


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Rehabilitation Science


Rangos School of Health Sciences

Committee Chair

David Somers, Ingrid Provident

Committee Member

Steven Wheeler

Committee Member

Leesa DiBartola


Hand therapy, Occupation-based, Phenomenology


The founding philosophies of occupational therapy and the medical model have been in conflict within the practice of occupational therapy for more than 60 years. This conflict is especially evident in the hand therapy arena due to the prevalence of the medical model. There is extensive literature outside this specialty area indicating that an occupation-based approach is beneficial for patients with whom it is used yet there is a lack of research on occupation-based hand therapy. Clearly describing and defining what constitutes occupation-based hand therapy can help promote occupation-based practice in keeping with the philosophy of the profession and facilitate efficacy research.

Methods: The qualitative approach of phenomenology as described by Moustakas was used. Ten participants who were: 1) occupational therapists, 2) with more than five years of experience, 3) and who self identified as occupation-based, were recruited using criterion sampling. Data was collected through audio recorded telephone interviews and electronic mail. Analysis began with individual cases. Data was reduced and distilled into themes and descriptions of the experience of providing occupation-based hand therapy for each participant. The individual analysis was followed by a cross-case analysis revealing overarching themes and a synthesis description of the experience of providing occupation-based therapy.

Results: Five themes were uncovered that describe the experience of providing occupation-based hand therapy. 1) Influences: describes elements that influenced the participants' experience with providing occupation-based hand therapy. 2) Occupation and Professional Identity: described how the participants think about being an occupational therapist and how others perceive occupational therapy. 3) The Psychosocial Elements of Practice: addresses the interpersonal and psychological considerations in occupation-based hand therapy described by the participants. 4) The Procedural Elements of Practice, deals with the tasks associated with providing occupation-based hand therapy that were described by the participants. 5) Negotiating a Place: addresses the difficulties of occupation-based practice in a traditional hand therapy setting and the ways the participants have dealt with these difficulties.