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Research Article  |   November 1991
What is Clinical Reasoning?
Author Affiliations
  • Cheryl Mattingly, PhD, is Assistant Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1919 West Taylor Street, Chicago, Illinois 06012
Article Information
Research
Research Article   |   November 1991
What is Clinical Reasoning?
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, November 1991, Vol. 45, 979-986. doi:10.5014/ajot.45.11.979
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, November 1991, Vol. 45, 979-986. doi:10.5014/ajot.45.11.979
Abstract

This paper offers a concept of clinical reasoning that differs from many of the traditional definitions of clinical reasoning in occupational therapy and the health professions in general. Here, clinical reasoning in occupational therapy is described as a largely tacit, highly imagistic, and deeply phenomenological mode of thinking. It is argued that clinical reasoning involves more than the ability to offer explicit reasons that justify clinical decisions because it is also based on tacit understanding and habitual knowledge gained through experience. Clinical reasoning also involves more than a simple application of theory, particularly theory as understood in the natural sciences, because complex clinical tasks often require that the therapist improvise a treatment approach that addresses the unique meaning of disability as it relates to a particular patient.