Knowledge of our forefathers

This paper was presented at the 16th World Federation of Occupational Therapists Congress in Japan in 2014. Please click on the image below and sweep from right to left.


To reference please use Clouston TJ and then link to the website or use as per conference,

Abstract: World Federation of Occupational Therapists’ Congress, Japan, June 2014

Knowledge of our forefathers: The lost wisdom of lifestyle balance

In the contemporary model of economic global capitalism the hegemony of paid work is becoming a cause of stress and ill-health for people in many countries. In such times it is easy to forget that occupational therapy (OT) proposed wellbeing as a balance between active ‘doing’ activities and more reflexive ‘being’ (Wilcock 1999), where paid work was valued and necessary but was only one of a myriad of activities carried out in everyday life (Meyer 1922).

This paper presents the findings from a study that aimed to explore and understand the life balance of 29 OTs living and working in the UK.

Interview data was analysed using interpretive phenomenological analysis. This is a qualitative method that specifically focuses on the meaning and understanding of particular experiences and facilitates the researcher’s active engagement in the analysis process (Smith et al 2009).

Findings identified that lifestyle balance was a complex and interconnected phenomenon that could, if achieved, promote wellbeing. However, the OTs in the study were overbusy, experienced pressure and stress as a result of this and prioritized paid work over other daily activities.

In terms of practice this does signify that lifestyle balance can underpin wellbeing by reducing pressure and stress, but it also illustrates that OTs need to apply their knowledge of balance to their own lives as well as that of their clients. It challenges OTs to address the power of paid work in modern life and purports we return to the wisdom of our forefathers who maintained paid work needed to be part of a complex whole ‘fitted rightly into the rhythms of individual and social and cosmic nature’ (Meyer 1922:9), measured not in terms of money but by satisfaction ‘for money proves to be of uncertain value’ (Meyer 1922:8); a timely reminder in today’s growth driven world.


Smith JA, Flowers P, Larkin M (2009) Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: Theory, Method and Research. London, Sage Publications

Wilcock A (1999) Reflections on doing, being and becoming, Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 46, 1-11

Meyer A (1922) The philosophy of occupation therapy, Archives of Occupational Therapy 1,1, 1- 10

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