Placing ritual within occupational therapy: a phenomenological study of ceremonial rituals and rituals of the everyday




Norris, Teresa

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Ritual is not a commonly addressed form of occupation. Although scholars of ritual understand it to be a symbolic activity that is carried out in a repetitive or routine manner, occupational therapists have not seen the connection of ritual to occupation. Ritual has been studied in anthropology, psychology, sociology, and religious studies. Readings of these scholars of ritual show that ritual can bring about order, a feeling of community, and transformation to its participants. The purpose of this line of research is to show the relationship between ritual and occupational therapy, analyze its characteristics, and identify how it affects an individual's adaptation.

Ritual was studied at a community-based rehabilitation center for individuals diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. The qualitative study used participant observation, resident interviews, staff interviews, occupational therapists focus groups, and naturally occurring program data for analysis. Three papers submitted for publication compose the body of the findings. The first paper looks at the relationship between ritual and the characteristics of occupation. The characteristics are shown to be continua which can be used to analyze types of occupations. The second paper addresses the effects (order, validation, bridging, and transformation) of rituals upon the participants who reside in the rehabilitation center. It specifically looks at ritual as a means by which participants create a new personal narrative. The final paper analyzes specific and relevant rituals and relates them to scholarship within ritual studies.

Its significant to the scholarship in occupational therapy lies in it identifying the relationship of ritual to occupation and other commonly used terms within the profession, understanding that ritual is a subset of occupation, and identifying some effects of ritual upon its participants. The findings from this research are significant to clinical use because they reflect the effects of ritual upon individuals with brain injuries and identify characteristics of the environment that are conducive to positive treatment outcomes.