Understanding the development of occupational potential over time through the analysis of life stories
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[extract] Effective occupational therapy practice requires an understanding of ourselves and our clients from an occupational perspective as well as knowledge about different occupations and what influences people's occupational choices and patterns. Occupational science contributes to occupational therapists' requisite understanding and knowledge by investigating relevant concepts, constructs, and contextual factors that shape people's engagement in occupation. This chapter describes my qualitative doctoral study that explored the construct of occupational potential and how it develops over time. Occupational potential, which in simple terms refers to a person's capacity to do, was a relatively new construct in occupational science at the time of my study yet one that has always been fundamental to occupational therapy. The aim of the study was to research the development and realization of occupational potential from the perspectives of six older Australian women. The study adopted a life history approach using life stories to obtain a comprehensive view of the occupational experiences of the women. Life stories are the stories that people tell about what they have done throughout their lives. As such, life stories are valuable resources for occupational scientists who seek to generate knowledge about occupation. The women's life stories were the study data that were analyzed and interpreted to comprehend the construct of occupational potential and the influences that facilitated and constrained the women's occupational experiences at different stages of their lives. Findings from the study provide significant insight about people as occupational humans that occupational therapists can apply in practice.