Free
Other  |   November 1999
Defining Lives: Occupation as Identity: An Essay on Competence, Coherence, and the Creation of Meaning
Author Affiliations
  • Charles H. Christiansen, EdD, OTR, OT(C), FAOTA, is Dean and George T. Bryan Distinguished Professor, School of Allied Health Sciences, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, Texas 77555-1028; cchristi@utmb.edu
Article Information
The 1999 Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture
Other   |   November 1999
Defining Lives: Occupation as Identity: An Essay on Competence, Coherence, and the Creation of Meaning
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, November/December 1999, Vol. 53, 547-558. doi:10.5014/ajot.53.6.547
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, November/December 1999, Vol. 53, 547-558. doi:10.5014/ajot.53.6.547
Abstract

This article presents a view of occupation as the principal means through which people develop and express their personal identities. Based on a review of theory and research, it proposes that identity is instrumental to social life because it provides a context for deriving meaning from daily experiences and interpreting lives over time. The article proposes that identity also provides a framework for goal-setting and motivation. It is asserted that competence in the performance of tasks and occupations contributes to identity-shaping and that the realization of an acceptable identity contributes to coherence and well-being.

Within this framework, it is postulated that performance limitations and disfigurement that sometimes result from illness or injury have identity implications that should be recognized by occupational therapy practitioners. By virtue of their expertise in daily living skills, occupational therapy practitioners are well positioned to help address the identity challenges of those whom they serve. In so doing, they make an important contribution to meaning and well-being.