Title

Liberating Structures: Balancing Collaboration and Control in Occupation-Based Practice with At-Risk Youth

Start Time

28-10-2005 10:35 AM

End Time

28-10-2005 12:15 PM

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to describe the reasoning of occupational therapists about the use of occupation in programming for at-risk youth in non-traditional educational settings.

This action research study occurred over a period of 2 ½ years. A pilot study in Spring 2002 explored methods in preparation for the study design. During 2002-2003, the focus of the study was on examination of the thinking of the occupational therapists on the research team as they developed occupation-based, student-centered, and peer-group based interventions for adolescents in alternative settings. In 2003-2004, the concepts emerging in the study were refined, tested, and further explored by expanding the developing program to settings in another state and in the juvenile justice system.

Participants in the study were primarily a team of therapists working with a research team leader, with additional data from the adolescents served, including: youth dyad video interviews, therapist audio-taped reflections, and analytic memos. Data was analyzed using Ethnograph, topical memos, and discussion of memos by the team to produce program changes in a repeating three-week cycle.

This presentation focuses on one portion of the study’s data: a key concept the team has termed “liberating structures.” A liberationist flavor is threaded through the therapists’ reflections: they recognize their own impulses to “free” the students into experiences in which the students are more valued and in control of their own actions. Further, the therapists’ intent to provide student-centered services required collaboration with the students. In contrast, the therapists also desired to structure, or control, the activities being used as intervention, in order to maintain order and attain a therapeutic result. The following emerging themes will be described: occupation-based assessment and goal-setting, choices within structure, retaining therapist control, student ownership, and engaging experiences. Questions for discussion will include the following:

  • Is the concept of liberating structures a key concept in the application of occupation with other populations?
  • To what degree do therapists require control over occupations in therapy in order to feel secure and effective? Does this vary between therapists? With levels of experience?

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Oct 28th, 10:35 AM Oct 28th, 12:15 PM

Liberating Structures: Balancing Collaboration and Control in Occupation-Based Practice with At-Risk Youth

The purpose of this study was to describe the reasoning of occupational therapists about the use of occupation in programming for at-risk youth in non-traditional educational settings.

This action research study occurred over a period of 2 ½ years. A pilot study in Spring 2002 explored methods in preparation for the study design. During 2002-2003, the focus of the study was on examination of the thinking of the occupational therapists on the research team as they developed occupation-based, student-centered, and peer-group based interventions for adolescents in alternative settings. In 2003-2004, the concepts emerging in the study were refined, tested, and further explored by expanding the developing program to settings in another state and in the juvenile justice system.

Participants in the study were primarily a team of therapists working with a research team leader, with additional data from the adolescents served, including: youth dyad video interviews, therapist audio-taped reflections, and analytic memos. Data was analyzed using Ethnograph, topical memos, and discussion of memos by the team to produce program changes in a repeating three-week cycle.

This presentation focuses on one portion of the study’s data: a key concept the team has termed “liberating structures.” A liberationist flavor is threaded through the therapists’ reflections: they recognize their own impulses to “free” the students into experiences in which the students are more valued and in control of their own actions. Further, the therapists’ intent to provide student-centered services required collaboration with the students. In contrast, the therapists also desired to structure, or control, the activities being used as intervention, in order to maintain order and attain a therapeutic result. The following emerging themes will be described: occupation-based assessment and goal-setting, choices within structure, retaining therapist control, student ownership, and engaging experiences. Questions for discussion will include the following:

  • Is the concept of liberating structures a key concept in the application of occupation with other populations?
  • To what degree do therapists require control over occupations in therapy in order to feel secure and effective? Does this vary between therapists? With levels of experience?