The current perception of the Occupational Therapy profession in New Zealand

Nadja Armitage
21 February 2020

Armitage, N. (2020). The current perception of the Occupational Therapy profession in New Zealand. (A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the Masters of Occupational Therapy at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand.) [PDF 10.1MB]


The literature reviewed in relation to the research question indicated that the Occupational Therapy profession has a long-standing issue with how it is perceived within the health care sector. The literature clearly identified that Occupational Therapy adds significant value to health care and patient outcomes, however it also highlighted persistent problems with its professional identity and role identification. Underlying causes of these historical issues and previous strategies employed to overcome these were described.

This study uses interpretive descriptive methodology. Five research participants have been recruited using a purposive sampling method (snowballing). The research participants were Allied Health Professionals other than Occupational Therapists. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect the data for this study. QUAGOL, a 10-step data analysis method, was used to analyse the data and develop the findings.

The following four major categories of findings were identified: 1) The Value of Occupational Therapy, 2) Professional identity and 3) Promotion Occupational Therapy. 4) Environment and Systems constructs. The findings showed that, though overall participants thought that Occupational Therapy added significant value to New Zealand health care services, historical issues regarding professional identity and role confusion persisted, despite previous efforts to resolve them.

A key message for occupational therapists to take away from this study is to be proud of their profession and the significant contribution Occupational Therapy makes to the health care system and the health and well-being of individuals. To promote Occupational Therapy effectively on an individual level, Occupational Therapists are encouraged to clearly define their own professional identity by clearly understanding their professional boundaries to be able to confidently respond to stereotypical assumptions or perceptions of what the role of Occupational Therapy is. Occupational Therapists are further encouraged to communicate how their role contributes to service goals to further create awareness of its professional value. To overcome the historical issues the Occupational Therapy profession faces and develop effective promotional tools, further research has been recommended.

Key words: Occupational Therapy; Occupational Therapy profession; image; perception.

Nadja Armitage's research was supervised by Mary Butler.



This thesis is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial licence CC BY-NC 4.0 International.