Title

The meaning and experiences of participating in a community-based wellness center from the perspective of individuals with a spinal cord injury

Location

New River Room B

Start Time

2-10-2015 10:45 AM

End Time

2-10-2015 12:15 PM

Session Type

Research Paper

Abstract

Purpose: to explore how individuals with a spinal cord injury (SCI) describe their experiences participating in an activity-based community wellness center program, the meaning of these experiences, how their experiences influence their well-being, and how this information can inform occupational therapy practice.

Methods: The majority of literature relating to SCI and wellbeing has explored only physical wellbeing and the resulting physiologic benefits of exercise or physical activity. Little is known about the experiences and the meaning of these experiences of individuals with a SCI who participate in wellness programs. Using a phenomenological design, investigators conducted individual interviews of four adult men who were members of a community-based wellness center designed specifically for individuals with a SCI using a semi-structured format. Investigators also observed participants as they engaged in activities at the wellness center. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Field notes of observations were transcribed verbatim. Data were collected until saturation of themes was achieved. Data analysis included gaining a sense of the whole, meaning units, structure and essence of the experiences (Polkinghorne, 1989). Trustworthiness was established via use of multiple investigators, triangulation (multiple methods, investigators), a member check, and use of detailed descriptions and quotes.

Findings: Several themes emerged which describe how the center provided a supportive and hopeful environment of peers and a place where participants could go where they could feel in control and have something to do. Through engagement in occupation, participants supported, encouraged, and empathized with each other creating a supportive community and a place for hope. They experienced benefits to their physical, mental, and social well-being through participation and their interactions.

Discussion: The findings add to the literature on occupation and wellbeing, co-occupation, occupational spinoff, and transactional nature of occupation. Findings reinforce the notion that being through doing allows individuals to find meaning, purpose, satisfaction, and belonging that promote well-being (Wilcock, 2006). Co-occupations helped shape the experiences of participants (Pierce, 2009). The center provided a social environment that influenced acceptance and feelings of belonging (Rebeiro & Cook, 1999). The center provided a place where participants could interact, share experiences, ask questions, and be hopeful while doing occupations exemplifying the transactional nature of occupation (Dickie, et al., 2006). Occupational therapists need to recognize the importance of providing an environment where clients can feel hopeful, interact, and share experiences through engagement in occupation.

Conclusion: Occupational therapists need to be aware that rehabilitation focusing solely on exercise and adaptation to life in a wheelchair was viewed negatively by participants. Instilling hope and a sense of belonging through occupational engagement is essential to promoting well-being and successful integration into the community. OT programs should optimize opportunities for social participation and informal/formal education among peer groups and create environments that promote a sense of community and hope.

Key Words: wellness, occupation, spinal cord injury

References

Dickie, V., Cutchin, M., & Humphrey, R. (2006). Occupation as transactional experience: A critique of individualism in occupational science. Journal of Occupational Science, 13, 83-93.

Polkinghorne, D.E. (1989). Phenomenological research methods. Existential Phenomenological Perspectives in Psychology, 41-60.

Rebeiro, K.L., Cook, J.V. (1999). Opportunity, not prescription: An exploratory study of the experience of occupational engagement. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66(4), 176-187

Pierce, D. (2009). Co-occupation: The challenges of defining concepts original to occupational science. Journal of Occupational Science, 16(3), 203-207

Wilcock, A. (2006). An occupational perspective of health (2nd ed). Thorofare, NJ: Slack.

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Oct 2nd, 10:45 AM Oct 2nd, 12:15 PM

The meaning and experiences of participating in a community-based wellness center from the perspective of individuals with a spinal cord injury

New River Room B

Purpose: to explore how individuals with a spinal cord injury (SCI) describe their experiences participating in an activity-based community wellness center program, the meaning of these experiences, how their experiences influence their well-being, and how this information can inform occupational therapy practice.

Methods: The majority of literature relating to SCI and wellbeing has explored only physical wellbeing and the resulting physiologic benefits of exercise or physical activity. Little is known about the experiences and the meaning of these experiences of individuals with a SCI who participate in wellness programs. Using a phenomenological design, investigators conducted individual interviews of four adult men who were members of a community-based wellness center designed specifically for individuals with a SCI using a semi-structured format. Investigators also observed participants as they engaged in activities at the wellness center. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Field notes of observations were transcribed verbatim. Data were collected until saturation of themes was achieved. Data analysis included gaining a sense of the whole, meaning units, structure and essence of the experiences (Polkinghorne, 1989). Trustworthiness was established via use of multiple investigators, triangulation (multiple methods, investigators), a member check, and use of detailed descriptions and quotes.

Findings: Several themes emerged which describe how the center provided a supportive and hopeful environment of peers and a place where participants could go where they could feel in control and have something to do. Through engagement in occupation, participants supported, encouraged, and empathized with each other creating a supportive community and a place for hope. They experienced benefits to their physical, mental, and social well-being through participation and their interactions.

Discussion: The findings add to the literature on occupation and wellbeing, co-occupation, occupational spinoff, and transactional nature of occupation. Findings reinforce the notion that being through doing allows individuals to find meaning, purpose, satisfaction, and belonging that promote well-being (Wilcock, 2006). Co-occupations helped shape the experiences of participants (Pierce, 2009). The center provided a social environment that influenced acceptance and feelings of belonging (Rebeiro & Cook, 1999). The center provided a place where participants could interact, share experiences, ask questions, and be hopeful while doing occupations exemplifying the transactional nature of occupation (Dickie, et al., 2006). Occupational therapists need to recognize the importance of providing an environment where clients can feel hopeful, interact, and share experiences through engagement in occupation.

Conclusion: Occupational therapists need to be aware that rehabilitation focusing solely on exercise and adaptation to life in a wheelchair was viewed negatively by participants. Instilling hope and a sense of belonging through occupational engagement is essential to promoting well-being and successful integration into the community. OT programs should optimize opportunities for social participation and informal/formal education among peer groups and create environments that promote a sense of community and hope.

Key Words: wellness, occupation, spinal cord injury