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Joanne Haggar

Clark, F. (1993). Occupation embedded in a real life: Interweaving occupational science and
occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 47, 1067-1078.

In her Slagle Lecture, Florence Clark tells the story of Professor Penny Richardson, who
struggled with life after suffering a brain aneurysm. Through a narrative analysis of Pennys life, Clark
points out the importance of occupational therapists using occupational storytelling and occupational
story making when working with patients.
The story begins with Pennys childhood. Clarke is interested in what Penny remembers about
her parents and the different occupations Penny engaged in as a child. Clark finds that Penny liked to
write stories and poems as a way to process the world around her. She also liked to be outdoors and take
care of animals. These occupations followed Penny into her adult life. She earned a degree in English
Literature, and she found new ways to enjoy the outdoors, such as skiing and mountain hiking.
The narrative then goes on to what happened next. At age 47, Pennys life changed dramatically
when she suffered a brain aneurysm and had to adjust to her new life. Penny claimed she felt
uncomfortable during her time in the hospital and during recovery; she felt like a product instead of a
person. She felt that her time working with physical and occupational therapists was meaningless, which
left her with feelings of abandonment. Clark invited Penny to work on activities with her that she
thought would remind Penny of her former self. It then became clear to Clark that she was acting as
Pennys occupational therapist, and not just as an interviewer, by asking Penny to tell stories of her past
as a way to help her imagine stories of her future.
Throughout the narrative of Pennys struggle and recovery, Penny tells stories of her childhood
and life up until her brain aneurysm as a way to therapeutically reflect on her past experiences. This
process is known as occupational storytelling, and Clark emphasizes the importance of using this
technique as a way to better understand the person as a whole. Next, Penny and Clark used occupational
story making as a therapeutic process of finding solutions that would shape Pennys future self. Clark
states that the goal is to find a variety of occupations that join the old self with the new self.
After reading this article, I now understand what is meant by occupational story telling and
occupational story making. I have heard these terms used before, however, seeing them used with a
detailed example really gave me the insight I needed. I think that these two techniques are very
important for a person under going rehabilitation in order to make them feel cared for. I believe that it is
already difficult to adjust to the new changes and challenges that the person may be experiencing, and I
believe that the occupational therapist should be able to provide support to the whole person, instead of
just focusing on the condition. I think this can be done by using occupational story telling, occupational
story making, and occupations that join the old self with the new self.