Occupational therapists advocate with/for people with disabilities. In the occupational therapy literature, advocacy is mentioned within the context of specific populations or practice settings and thus there is no consistent way of describing advocacy itself. The objective of this article is to describe advocacy in action for occupational therapists who report engaging in advocacy with/for people with disabilities.
In this hermeneutic phenomenological study, 13 occupational therapists were interviewed about their advocacy experiences. Data analysis was completed using a Gadamerian-based approach.
Advocacy is complex given that the specific tasks, the third party to whom advocacy is directed and the individual(s) advocating with the therapist vary greatly. Many skills used for advocacy are already part of the therapist’s practice, such as defining the problem, acquiring information, communicating and providing education. In this study, occupational therapists describe advocating as assisting clients who are struggling with access to equipment, services or funding. Also, they advocate by fostering the development of self-advocacy, rather than representing people with disabilities on an ongoing basis.
While these findings provide some insights about how advocacy is currently practiced, a detailed framework is needed to further guide therapists through this complex area of practice.