Rebecca Aldrich PhD, OTR/L (she/her/hers)
Professor of Clinical Occupational Therapy
Rebecca (Beccy) Aldrich is an occupational scientist whose work explores sociopolitical influences on everyday life. She received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees in occupational therapy from the University of Southern California and her Doctor of Philosophy in occupational science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to her 2018 appointment to the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, she was an associate professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at Saint Louis University.
Dr. Aldrich’s research on the “wicked problem” of long-term unemployment has illuminated how resource seeking shapes everyday life, contributing not only to empirical literatures but also to critiques of assumptions about occupation. Dr. Aldrich has established a number of global partnerships to foster students’ understanding of occupational-related concepts — particularly those related to social and occupational justice — and this work has earned awards for innovative teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Dr. Aldrich has published extensively in peer-reviewed occupational science and occupational therapy journals and textbooks, earning awards for both her writing and for her mentoring of other faculty members on their research and writing processes.
Unemployment, occupational in/justice, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Deweyan philosophy, critical perspectives on occupation.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
in Occupational Science
2011 | University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Master of Arts (MA)
in Occupational Therapy
2006 | University of Southern California
Bachelor of Science (BS)
in Occupational Therapy
2006 | University of Southern California
Asaba, E., Sy, M., Pineda, R. C., Aldrich, R., Anzai, T., Bontje, P., Bratun, U., Farias, L., Kapanadze, M., Šuc, L., & Åkesson, E. (2023). Return to work after COVID-19: An international perspective. World Federation of Occupational Therapists Bulletin, 79(1), 42-52. https://doi.org/10.1080/14473828.2022.2045819 Show abstract
Among individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 around the world, there is a substantial number who would need support in finding their way back to meaningful and productive work. The aims of this paper are to demonstrate the multitude of factors that shape return to work (RTW) practices across and within several countries, and argue for the need to explore RTW from an international perspective during an on-going pandemic, focusing on working age adults who have recovered from COVID-19. Conditions for RTW differ across countries. Occupational therapy has a central role in medical rehabilitation after injury and illness (including COVID-19), but the occupational therapy community has, to the best of our knowledge, yet to raise awareness and advance evidence regarding its role in post-COVID RTW processes. A robust evidence-based knowledge on RTW that can be utilised by occupational therapists during the present and future pandemics is needed.
Keywords. Employment; rehabilitation; long COVID; post COVID; occupational therapy; role emerging practice; return to work
Laliberte Rudman, D., & Aldrich, R. M. (2022, November). Social isolation, third places, and precarious employment circumstances: A scoping review. Western University. https://doi.org/10.5206/otpub.2022.54 Show abstract
Rising rates of social isolation in Canada and other middle- and high-income countries have turned scholarly attention to the kinds of places that facilitate social connections. “Third places” — physical and virtual places beyond home (first places) and work (second places) — are thought to foster social interaction, connection, belonging, and support. This evidence brief reports on a SSHRC funded knowledge synthesis that linked understandings about “third places” with situations of precarious employment, given that people facing precarious employment circumstances often lack the social opportunities and resources associated with stable workplaces. This scoping review assessed what is known about the types and characteristics of “third places” that help maintain social connectedness and address social isolation for adults experiencing precarious employment circumstances. The project examined English-language research articles published in multidisciplinary academic journals between 2012 and 2022. The review captured diverse forms of employment (i.e., gig work, involuntary part-time work, seasonal work, temporary migrant work) characterized as transient, non-permanent, unpredictable, having few worker protections or rights, and associated with low or unpredictable remuneration, as well as cyclical and long-term unemployment. In addition to synthesizing study results, findings attend to how studies addressed diverse social positions and studies’ geographic locations, methodologies, methods, and quality. The goal of the project was to understand the current state of knowledge on this topic; create dialogue about how social isolation can be addressed through precarious workers’ engagement with “third places”; and identify opportunities for stakeholders to partner on place-based interventions with people experiencing precarious employment circumstances.
Aldrich, R. M., Galvaan, R., Gerlach, A. J., Laliberte Rudman, D., Magalhães, L., Pollard, N., & Farias, L. (2022). Promoting critically informed learning and knowing about occupation through conference engagements. Journal of Occupational Science, 29(4), 602-617. https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2021.1970617 Show abstract
As occupation-focused discussions and applications of critical theoretical perspectives increase, attention must also be paid to how different spaces of knowledge dissemination, exchange, and production support critically informed learning and knowing about occupation. This paper presents the reflections of a group of international scholars and lecturers whose shared interest in critical theoretical perspectives prompted the incremental co-development of a series of conference engagements. We describe how our group came together, what kinds of learning experiences we developed to promote and support engagement with critical theoretical perspectives, and what understandings we gained through ongoing critical reflexivity about those learning experiences. Our discussion addresses two problematics related to conferences as learning spaces: inclusion, and sustained engagement with epistemic communities and ideas that may form through critically oriented conference sessions. We also discuss how enacting critical pedagogies and principles of ‘unconferencing’ may better promote critically informed ways of learning and knowing occupation than typical conference structures. The paper ends with a call for continued integration of varied critically informed teaching and learning opportunities at conferences, as a means of further encouraging diverse types of knowledge production, sharing, and learning about occupation.
Keywords. Occupational science; Conferences; Critical theory; Occupation-based Social Transformation; Praxis
Huot, S., Aldrich, R. M., Laliberte Rudman, D., & Stone, M. (2022). Picturing precarity through occupational mapping: Making the (im)mobilities of long-term unemployment visible. Journal of Occupational Science, 29(4), 529-544. https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2020.1821244 Show abstract
The 2008 recession had long-lasting economic effects that made everyday experiences of precarity more prevalent in many countries. Within a broader neoliberal context, however, the prevalence of precarity and its social production tends to be obscured, leading to a need for actions aimed at enhancing social awareness and informing social change. In this article, we illustrate how the precarity associated with long-term unemployment, which persisted at historically high levels through 2018, can be made visible by analyzing the mobilities of occupational engagement. Our illustrations derive from a larger four-phase collaborative ethnography conducted in the United States and Canada between 2014 and 2018. Informed by a critical occupational science perspective, the study utilized multiple methods to generate data with participants who self-identified as being long-term unemployed. One of those methods, occupational mapping, explored how participants negotiated daily routines and occupations at the local scale during their unemployment. Analysis of four exemplar cases, as informed by the mobilities paradigm, illuminates the lived impacts and geospatial effects of precarity on everyday occupations in situations of long-term unemployment. Findings contribute to the wider examination of how precarity is spatially experienced within the situation of long-term unemployment as reflected in people’s (im)mobilities and occupational engagement.
Keywords. Occupational science; Activation; Ethnography; Mobilities; Occupational mapping; Long-term unemployment; Precarity
Aldrich, R. M., Bream, S., & McLaughlin Gray, J. (2022). Course creation as a response to intersecting pandemics: Enhancing students’ abilities to leverage and mobilize an occupational perspective. Journal of Occupational Science, 29(3), 441-450. https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2022.2061038 Show abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic emerged in early 2020, as did calls to bring an occupational perspective to an evolving situation. However, the role of occupation-focused education in facilitating responses to the global crisis was missing from this dialogue. This paper aims to address that gap by describing the development of a new course delivered at the University of Southern California in 2020 and 2021. Grounded in occupational science, this special topics course aimed to meet various teaching and learning needs for the post-professional occupational therapy doctorate program. This paper describes how the focus, format, and content of the course developed through a backward design approach to address topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic and intersecting, ongoing crises of structural racism and health and social inequalities. The primary course assignment, a knowledge mobilization product, provided students novel opportunities to leverage their occupational perspectives in response to emergent issues. The paper concludes by addressing three interrelated topics: the importance of institutional mechanisms that facilitate responsive educational innovations; the need to track the teaching and learning impacts of such innovations; and how such innovations reflect the importance of occupational science education.
Keywords. Occupational science; Backward design; Knowledge mobilization; Professional education; Occupational therapy
Baranek, G. T., Frank, G., & Aldrich, R. M. (2021). Meliorism and knowledge mobilization: Strategies for occupational science research and practice. Journal of Occupational Science, 28(2), 274-286. https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2020.1824802 Show abstract
This article proposes that ‘meliorism’—a philosophical belief in people’s abilities to improve lived experience through engaged problem-solving—is a useful concept to describe and orient occupational science research, given the challenges of our time. This proposal derives from an intensive period of discussion through occupational science seminars, strategic planning sessions, and other activities at the University of Southern California’s Mrs. T. H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, including preparations for the 26th Occupational Science Symposium in 2019. While many disciplines and professions express a melioristic intent, we believe that occupational science and occupational therapy exemplify a particular understanding of meliorism, given the view of occupation that they share, as: 1) engaged activity that has meaning and purpose; and 2) a powerful tool that builds consciousness and practices that can promote desired change. We suggest that occupational scientists’ aim to develop impactful research manifests these conceptual foundations. Further, we argue that a commitment to meliorism requires concerted efforts to mobilize knowledge by intentionally planning for stakeholder engagement and societal impact across all phases of research. We suggest that active knowledge mobilization will enhance the knowledge base of occupational science and help to realize its meliorist potential in both research and practice contexts.
Keywords. Occupational science; Knowledge mobilization; Meliorism; History of academic disciplines; Pragmatism
Asaba, E., Aldrich, R. M., Gabrielsson, H., Ekstam, L., & Farias, L. (2021). Challenging conceptualisations of work: Revisiting contemporary experiences of return to work and unemployment. Journal of Occupational Science, 28(1), 81-94. https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2020.1820896 Show abstract
This article draws on empirically derived illustrations of return to work and unemployment to critically explore how a narrow understanding of work pervades contemporary social policies and programmes. This is particularly relevant in economic and labour market transitions aligned with neoliberalism that individualise the social problem of unemployment and thus restrict occupational possibilities related to work. An overview of how work and related concepts have been conceptualised in occupational science scholarship is presented. After describing the theoretical orientation of the paper, three illustrations derived from a secondary analysis of data from projects conducted in Sweden and the United States are presented. The three empirically grounded illustrations are integrated with theory to highlight tensions between the politically informed structures that shape social policies and programmes and the individual experiences of work, unemployment, and return to work that users and providers of these programmes communicate. By asserting that success in work-related placement programmes is not synonymous with meaningful employment, we attempt to heighten awareness of the potential risks associated with a reliance on measuring work by merely being in paid formal employment.
Keywords. Critical occupational science; Labour market; Return to work; Unemployment
Aldrich, R. M., Laliberte Rudman, D., Park, N. E., & Huot, S. (2020). Centering the complexity of long-term unemployment: Lessons learned from a critical occupational science inquiry. Societies, 10(3), 65. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc10030065 Show abstract
Inquiries that rely on temporal framings to demarcate long-term unemployment risk generating partial understandings and grounding unrealistic policy solutions. In contrast, this four-phase two-context study aimed to generate complex understandings of post-recession long-term unemployment in North America. Grounded in a critical occupational perspective, this collaborative ethnographic study also drew on street-level bureaucracy and governmentality perspectives to understand how social policies and discursive constructions shaped people’s everyday ‘doing’ within the arena of long-term unemployment. Across three phases, study methods included interviews with 15 organizational stakeholders who oversaw employment support services; interviews, participant observations, and focus groups with 18 people who provided front-line employment support services; and interviews, participant observations, time diaries, and occupational mapping with 23 people who self-identified as being long-term unemployed. We draw on selected interviews and mapping data to illustrate how participants’ definitions and experiences of long-term unemployment reflected and moved beyond dominant temporally based framings. These findings reinforce the need to expand the dominant conceptualizations of long-term unemployment that shape scholarly inquiries and policy responses. Reflections on the benefits and challenges of this study’s design also reinforce the need to use multiple, flexible methods to center the complexity of long-term unemployment as it is experienced in everyday life.
Keywords. long-term unemployment; critical occupational perspective; methods
Aldrich, R. M., & Laliberte Rudman, D. (2020). Occupational therapists as street-level bureaucrats: Leveraging the political nature of everyday practice. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 87(2), 137-143. https://doi.org/10.1177/0008417419892712 Show abstract
Background. As front-line service providers who often work in systems regulated by governmental bodies, occupational therapists can be conceptualized as “street-level bureaucrats” (Lipsky, 1980/2010) who effect and are affected by policy.
Purpose. Drawing on understandings from a study of long-term unemployment, this article proposes that occupational therapists, as street-level bureaucrats, respond to inter-related policies and systems in ways that can perpetuate, resist, or transform opportunities for doing and being.
Key Issues. By highlighting practitioners’ everyday negotiation of governmental, organizational, and professional power relations, the notion of street-level bureaucracy illuminates the political nature of practice as well as the possibilities and boundaries that policy can place on ideal forms and outcomes of practice.
Implications. Framing occupational therapists as street-level bureaucrats reinforces practitioners’ situatedness as political actors. Mobilizing this framing can enhance awareness of occupational therapists’ exercise of discretion, which can be investigated as a basis for occupation-focused and emancipatory forms of practice.
Keywords. Occupational therapy, Policy, Practice, Street level; Bureaucratie de la rue, Ergothérapie, Politique, Pratique
Jaegers, L. A., Barney, K. F., & Aldrich, R. M. (2019). The role of occupational science and occupational therapy in the juvenile justice system. In M. G. Vaughn, C. P. Salas-Wright, & D. B. Jackson (Eds.), Routledge international handbook of delinquency and health (pp. 291-304). New York, NY: Routledge.
Aldrich, R. M., & Peters, L. (2019). Using occupational justice as a linchpin of international educational collaborations. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 73(3), 7303205100. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2019.029744 Show abstract
When designing international educational collaborations, occupational science and occupational therapy educators must consider how occupational justice can be a linchpin for students’ learning. This article describes an international collaboration involving 52 undergraduate occupational science students in the United States and 41 undergraduate occupational therapy students in South Africa. The students participated in six synchronous video conferences in 2016, during which they gave group presentations about four occupational science constructs and engaged in general question-and-answer sessions. Forty percent of the students provided feedback about the interactions using a six-item open-ended electronic questionnaire, which we analyzed using directed content analysis. Our findings suggest that the collaboration helped the students develop more nuanced understandings of disciplinary constructs, international peers, and themselves, providing a platform from which to engage with the big idea of occupational justice. Refinements to this collaboration are aimed at drawing on students’ increased critical consciousness to further develop their knowledge about occupational justice.
Aldrich, R. M. (2019). Internationalizing occupational therapy education: Designing opportunities for critical engagement across cultures. In S. D. Taff, L. C. Grajo, & B. R. Hooper (Eds.), Perspectives on occupational therapy education: Past, present, and future (pp. 129-138). Thorofare, NJ: Slack.
Aldrich, R. M., Gupta, J., & Laliberte Rudman, D. (2018). “Academic innovation in service of” what? The scope of North American occupational science doctoral graduates’ contributions from 1994–2015. Journal of Occupational Science, 25(2), 270-282. https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2017.1365257 Show abstract
More than 100 people have graduated with occupational science doctoral degrees in North America. Accordingly, there is a body of work that can be examined to assess what qualities have characterized doctoral-level occupational science inquiry to-date. In this preliminary study, we performed a directed content analysis of 101 dissertation abstracts published between 1994 and 2015 from four occupational science doctoral programs in the United States and Canada. Our analysis explored the extent to which the 101 doctoral studies, as evidenced by their abstracts, directly contributed to knowledge of occupation or humans as occupational beings. Our findings suggested that 40 studies made a direct contribution, 29 made an indirect contribution, and 32 made no contribution to the study of occupation or humans as occupational beings. Additional analyses revealed that studies in the direct and indirect categories relied heavily (80% and 69%, respectively) on qualitative methodologies, whereas studies in the no contribution category were more evenly split across qualitative (37%) and quantitative (47%) methodologies. A variety of topics and themes characterized studies in each category, and further research on 92 doctoral students’ post-graduation publications showed that 50 made contributions to occupational science’s knowledge base through published articles or book chapters. The findings from this preliminary inquiry provide a basis to critically reflect on the goals, outcomes, and functions of occupational science doctoral education as well as how the discipline has developed through doctoral work within evolving academic, scientific, and political landscapes.
Aldrich, R. M. (2018). Strengthening associated living: A Deweyan approach to occupational justice. Journal of Occupational Science, 25(3), 337-345. https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2018.1484386 Show abstract
The transactional perspective informed by John Dewey’s philosophy continues to mature in occupational science. Scholars have called for more attention to the community orientation within a transactional perspective, necessitating deeper engagement with Dewey’s political writings. As a contribution to that effort, this article outlines Dewey’s political philosophy and connects his notions of occupation and associated living with his broader ideas about freedom, equality, growth, and justice. Dewey’s enduring attention to democracy throughout his career established a particular function for occupation vis-à-vis the intentionally constructed social relations that constitute associated living. Culminating in his vision of a Great Community, Dewey’s focus on the conditions of associated living provides compelling directions for thinking about and pursuing occupational justice.
Aldrich, R. M., & Heatwole Shank, K. (2018). An occupational science perspective on occupation, adaption, and participation. In L. C. Grajo & A. Boisselle (Eds.), Adaptation through occupation: Multidimensional perspectives (pp. 159-174). Thorofare, NJ: Slack.
Gerlach, A. J., Teachman, G., Laliberte Rudman, D., Aldrich, R. M., & Huot, S. (2018). Expanding beyond individualism: Engaging critical perspectives on occupation. Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 25(1), 35-43. https://doi.org/10.1080/11038128.2017.1327616 Show abstract
Background: Perspectives that individualize occupation are poorly aligned with socially responsive and transformative occupation-focused research, education, and practice. Their predominant use in occupational therapy risks the perpetuation, rather than resolution, of occupational inequities.
Aim: In this paper, we problematize taken-for-granted individualistic analyses of occupation and illustrate how critical theoretical perspectives can reveal the ways in which structural factors beyond an individual’s immediate control and environment shape occupational possibilities and occupational engagement.
Method: Using a critically reflexive approach, we draw on three distinct qualitative research studies to examine the potential of critical theorizing for expanding beyond a reliance on individualistic analyses and practices.
Results: Our studies highlight the importance of addressing the socio-historical and political contexts of occupation and demonstrate the contribution of critical perspectives to socially responsive occupational therapy.
Conclusion and significance: In expanding beyond individualistic analyses of occupation, critical perspectives advance research and practices towards addressing socio-political mediators of occupational engagement and equity.
The commitment to justice spans disciplines across Jesuit higher education, including the health sciences. At least 12 Jesuit colleges and universities offer occupational therapy programs, but the profession has been somewhat overlooked as a partner for justice on those campuses. Through a case example focusing on Saint Louis University’s Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy (SLU-DOSOT), this article aims to illustrate the ways in which occupational therapy can be a partner in the promotion and pursuit of justice. A brief overview of the profession’s perspective on occupational justice precedes the description of SLU-DOSOT, and selected examples illustrate the range of contributions that this perspective can make to university-wide justice-focused efforts.
Laliberte Rudman, D., & Aldrich, R. M. (2017). Discerning the social in individual stories of occupation through critical narrative inquiry. Journal of Occupational Science, 24(4), 470-481. https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2017.1369144 Show abstract
Calls to ‘transcend the individual’ in occupational science have emerged in recognition of the boundaries of individualistic perspectives and the drive to develop a socially responsive science. In this article, we contend that transcending the individual does not equate to neglecting how individuals make sense of and experience occupation; rather, it requires looking at individual constructions of experiences and occupations in critically informed ways that highlight the socio-political influences on those constructions. This discussion article considers how critical narrative inquiry can be taken up as a methodological approach to interpretively link individual ‘stories’ with social ‘stories’ or discourses, enabling further understanding of occupation as a situated and transactional phenomenon. Drawing on data from a study that is attending to transactions of policy, service, and individual perspectives of long-term unemployment, we illustrate how a critical approach to narrative interpretation highlights boundaries, resistance, contradictions, and tensions that provide insights into the situated nature of occupation.
Aldrich, R. M., & Cutchin, M. P. (2017). Filling in the gaps: A case for enhancing Madsen and Josephsson’s assertions about occupation, situation, and inquiry. Journal of Occupational Science, 24(4), 425-429. https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2017.1336736 Show abstract
Madsen and Josephsson’s rich account of ideas from John Dewey’s philosophical writings urges occupational scientists to understand occupation as “something that goes on ... because of a situation, not only by or because of the individual” (p. 12). Although many aspects of their article helpfully re-emphasize important points about pragmatism, occupation, and transformation, their article also suggests issues noted by other Deweyan scholars and omits arguments previously put forth by those working with a Deweyan interpretation of occupation. In this commentary, we offer suggestions for acknowledging and more fully incorporating existing contributions on the topics of occupation, situation, and inquiry. We also highlight potential connections and developments that Madsen and Josephsson’s work may foster in future occupational science scholarship.
Aldrich, R. M., Laliberte Rudman, D., & Dickie, V. A. (2017). Resource seeking as occupation: A critical and empirical exploration. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(3), 7103260010p1-7103260010p9. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2017.021782 Show abstract
Occupational therapists and occupational scientists are committed to generating and using knowledge about occupation, but Western middle-class social norms regarding particular ways of doing have limited explorations of survival occupations. This article provides empirical evidence of the ways in which resource seeking constitutes an occupational response to situations of uncertain survival. Resource seeking includes a range of activities outside formal employment that aim to meet basic needs. On the basis of findings from 2 ethnographic studies, we critique the presumption of survival in guiding occupational therapy documents and the accompanying failure to recognize occupations that seem at odds with self-sufficiency. We argue that failing to name resource seeking in occupational therapy documents risks alignment with social, political, and economic trends that foster occupational injustices. If occupational therapists truly aim to meet society’s occupational needs, they must ensure that professional documents and discourses reflect the experiences of all people in society.
Laliberte Rudman, D., & Aldrich, R. M. (2017). Occupational science. In M. Curtin, M. Egan, & J. Adams (Eds.), Occupational therapy for people experiencing illness, injury or impairment (7th ed., pp. 17-27). Oxford, UK: Elsevier.
Aldrich, R. M., & Laliberte Rudman, D. (2016). Situational analysis: A visual analytic approach that unpacks the complexity of occupation. Journal of Occupational Science, 23(1), 51-66. https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2015.1045014 Show abstract
Concurrent with the development of a transactional perspective, the notion of “the situation” has increasingly been taken up in occupational science scholarship. Accordingly, research methodologies and approaches that capture the multifaceted elements of situations need to be explored. Situational analysis, pioneered by sociologist and grounded theorist Adele Clarke, shows promise for facilitating inquiries into situations of occupational engagement. In this article we review the situational analysis approach and provide an example of its application to research on the situation of long-term unemployment. In this application, situational mapping illuminated the contradiction of simultaneously being “activated” and “stuck”. Situational analysis helped unpack how this contradiction was shaped within North American contexts. Based on this example and others outside the occupational science literature, we discuss how situational analysis can be a useful tool for fostering critical, socially-responsive, and community-engaged occupational science research.
Laliberte Rudman, D., & Aldrich, R. M. (2016). “Activated, but stuck”: Applying a critical occupational lens to examine the negotiation of long-term unemployment in contemporary socio-political contexts. Societies, 6(3), 28. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc6030028 Show abstract
Background: Solutions for the problem of long-term unemployment are increasingly shaped by neoliberally-informed logics of activation and austerity. Because the implications of these governing frameworks for everyday life are not well understood, this pilot study applied a critical occupational science perspective to understand how long-term unemployment is negotiated within contemporary North American socio-political contexts. This perspective highlights the implications of policy and employment service re-configurations for the range of activities that constitute everyday life.
Methods: Using a collaborative ethnographic community-engaged research approach, we recruited eight people in Canada and the United States who self-identified as experiencing long-term unemployment. We analyzed interviews and observation notes concerning four participants in each context using open coding, critical discourse analysis, and situational analysis.
Results: This pilot study revealed a key contradiction in participants’ lives: being “activated, but stuck”. This contradiction resulted from the tension between individualizing, homogenizing frames of unemployment and complex, socio-politically shaped lived experiences. Analysis of this tension revealed how participants saw themselves “doing all the right things” to become re-employed, yet still remained stuck across occupational arenas.
Conclusion: This pilot study illustrates the importance of understanding how socio-political solutions to long-term unemployment impact daily life and occupational engagement beyond the realm of job seeking and job acquisition.
Aldrich, R. M. (2015). Course redesign to promote local and global experiential learning about human occupation: Description and evaluation of a pilot effort. South African Journal of Occupational Therapy, 45(1), 56-62. https://doi.org/10.17159/2310-3833/2015/v45no1a10 Show abstract
Introduction: Globalisation heightens the need for diverse learning experiences regarding human occupation. This article describes a two-phase redesign of an undergraduate occupational science course that generated community outings in the United States (U.S.) and synchronous online interactions between U.S. and Swedish students. Via experiential learning opportunities, the course redesign aimed to enhance students' understanding of occupational science and occupational therapy concepts as well as how such concepts are taken up across global contexts.
Method: 96 undergraduate U.S. occupational science students participated in community outings, and 52 of those students also participated in synchronous online interactions with 35 undergraduate Swedish occupational therapy student peers. U.S. students provided feedback about the community outings and synchronous online interactions via written course evaluations and reflections.
Results: U.S. students perceived community outings and synchronous online interactions as positive learning opportunities but also suggested possible improvements which have been implemented in subsequent iterations of the course.
Conclusions: When accompanied by structured reflective opportunities, local and global experiential learning can positively impact students. It is important to consider how experiential learning fits within course objectives, as well as how technology enables or inhibits experiential learning across local and global contexts.
Aldrich, R. M., Harkins McCarty, C., Boyd, B. A., Bunch, C., & Balentine, C. B. (2014). Empirical lessons about occupational categorization from case studies of unemployment: Leçons empiriques sur la catégorisation des occupations à partir d’études de cas sur le chômage. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81(5), 289-297. https://doi.org/10.1177/0008417414540129 Show abstract
Background: Scrutiny regarding the typological categorization of occupation (e.g., occupation as work, rest, or leisure) has prompted interest in experiential categories as a less exclusionary alternative. Empirical research can extend the dialogue about categorization by demonstrating how people in particular situations apply and generate occupational categories.
Purpose: This article explores how adults without work utilized typological and experiential categorizations when discussing their occupations.
Method: Data were generated via a secondary analysis of interview transcripts from three ethnographic case studies.
Findings: Study consultants gravitated toward experiential rather than typological categorizations, emphasizing the social, chosen, purposeful, and temporal qualities of their occupational engagement.
Implications: Occupational therapy practitioners and researchers must explicitly state how and why they categorize occupations with clients and research participants. Whereas typological categories can be used to initiate discussions about occupation, open questions paired with consultant-generated experiential categories may better capture occupational engagement and reveal potential injustices in situations like unemployment.
Aldrich, R. M., & Marterella, A. (2014). Community-engaged research: A path for occcupational science in the changing university landscape. Journal of Occupational Science, 21(2), 210-225. https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2012.714077 Show abstract
In this paper, we highlight community-engaged research (CER) as an anchor for occupational science within the shifting American academy. Specific changes in the relationship of research funding, university priorities, and the discipline's aims provide a rich context for discussion. We define CER along a continuum and note its relation to current research approaches and funding priorities. We discuss the benefits and barriers of CER, focusing particularly on forces that drive and legitimize academic disciplines and their research. We suggest that recent developments in American higher education create a space for occupational science to produce legitimate, important, and interdisciplinary CER. Taking a cue from anthropology, we consider the ways in which occupational science may be “in use” within and outside academe via CER and chart a possible future path for the American arm of the discipline. We culminate by posing questions to continue this important discussion.
Aldrich, R. M., & Dickie, V. A. (2013). "It's hard to plan your day when you have no money": Discouraged workers' occupational possibilities and the need to reconceptualize routine. Work, 45(1), 5-15. https://doi.org/10.3233/WOR-131596 Show abstract
Objective: This paper presents daily routine as a justice-related concern for unemployed people, based on an ethnographic study of discouraged workers.
Participants: Four women and one man who wanted to work but had ceased searching for jobs, and 25 community members whose jobs served the unemployed community, participated in the study.
Methods: Ethnographic methodology — including participant observation, semi-structured and unstructured interviews, and document reviews — and the Occupational Questionnaire were used to gather data for 10 months in a rural North Carolina town. Data analysis included open and focused coding via the Atlas.ti software as well as participant review of findings and writings.
Results: Routines need to be seen as negotiated, resource-driven products of experience rather than automatic structures for daily living. Scholars and practitioners must acknowledge that the presence or absence of routine not only relates to resource use but also influences unemployed people's occupational possibilities.
Conclusions: To address unjust expectations about unemployed people's occupational possibilities, scholars must examine the uncertain, negotiated nature of daily routine and its function as a foundation for occupational engagement. Thus, it may be helpful to view routine as both a prerequisite of occupation and a way that existing occupations are organized.
Bailliard, A. L., Aldrich, R. M., & Dickie, V. A. (2013). Ethnography and the transactional study of occupation. In M. P. Cutchin & V. A. Dickie (Eds.), Transactional perspectives on occupation (pp. 157-168). Dordrecht: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-4429-5_13 Show abstract
Studying occupation from a transactional perspective calls for a focus on the relationships that constitute the situation of occupation. In this chapter we discuss the fit of ethnographic processes and the transactional perspective. We propose that the ethnographic study of occupation reveals its transactional nature by exposing influences, relationships, and occupations that make up a study situation. We argue that ethnographers and participants play an active role in data collection and that their transactions generate a co-created ethnographic product grounded in the relationship. Moreover, the scope of ethnography goes beyond the interpersonal elements of a relational situation to examine other factors such as place, objects, environmental features, traditions, history, politics, and economics. The relationships joining these elements, occupations, and humans are significant components of a study situation addressed by ethnographies. The chapter is grounded in our research experiences on occupation with ethnographic methods. Examples from our research illustrate the transactional nature of studying occupation through ethnography.
Aldrich, R. M., & Cutchin, M. P. (2013). Dewey’s concepts of embodiment, growth, and occupation: Extended bases for a transactional perspective. In M. P. Cutchin & V. A. Dickie (Eds.), Transactional perspectives on occupation (pp. 13-23). Dordrecht: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-4429-5_2 Show abstract
To more fully understand Dewey’s philosophy of action as it pertains to occupation we explore his conceptualizations of embodiment and growth. For Dewey, embodiment refers to a process of inhabiting an inherently social world. We discuss the process of embodying as it fits within Dewey’s view of people as “live creatures.” This process occurs within an uncertain and complex world, and we examine how embodiment works to develop habits and the ability of people to coordinate with a changing world. Coordination necessitates inquiry into problematic situations, and inquiry is a source of growth for individuals and communities. We then discuss the Deweyan concept of growth — the continual emergence and actualization of possibilities — as it connects to embodiment and transaction. Combined with Dewey’s ideas of freedom and equality, embodiment and growth provide the ability to understand occupation in a much richer way. Using Dewey’s early works on education, we synthesize his conceptualization of occupation with his concepts of embodiment and growth. We suggest that occupations be viewed as ways of embodying shared experience, enhancing growth, and promoting personal and communal well-being across the life course.
Aldrich, R. M., & White, N. (2012). Reconsidering violence: A response to Twinley and Addidle (2012) and Morris (2012). British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 75(11), 527-529. https://doi.org/10.4276/030802212X13522194760057 Show abstract
This opinion piece aims to further the discussion of violence that Twinley and Addidle (2012) and Morris (2012) have initiated. Using occupational therapy, occupational science and criminological literature, it is argued that violence itself is not an occupation but, rather, an instrument of certain occupations, such as crime. Investigation of the situations in which violent occupations become ‘occupational possibilities’ is advocated, with the suggestion that practitioners and scholars must direct their attention to both perpetrators and victims of violent occupations. It is further argued that a better understanding of violent occupations will more adequately frame occupational repertoires in disadvantaged communities.
Discouraged workers, who want to work but have given up looking for employment, form a socially marginalized group whose occupations and experiences remain poorly researched. As such, discouraged workers and their situations offer new avenues for inquiry about occupation, well-being, justice, and the relationships between them. Yet discouraged workers' peripheral social standing both justifies a need for research and complicates its execution. This article describes how experiences in the field reframed an ethnographic study of discouraged workers in rural North Carolina. The authors (the researcher and one discouraged worker) suggest that the second author's disappearance fostered collaborative opportunities and understandings that were initially unavailable to the study, and argue that the research situation itself began to mirror the uncertainty inherent in discouraged workers' situation. The insights derived from the phenomenon of disappearance provide valuable information for planning, executing, and evaluating future occupational science research on marginalized populations like discouraged workers.
Cutchin, M. P., Marshall, V. W., & Aldrich, R. M. (2010). Moving to a continuing care retirement community: Occupations in the therapeutic landscape process. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 25(2), 117–132. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10823-010-9113-y Show abstract
The process of transitioning into, and living in, a retirement community can be usefully examined with the concept of ‘therapeutic landscapes.’ While underutilized in anthropology and gerontology, the concept offers a combination of geographical and cultural views on the place and well-being relationship. The inclusion of an occupational science perspective, wherein occupations (or everyday activities of meaning) are seen as a crucial part of the person-place relationship, should enhance the therapeutic landscape perspective of older persons and their retirement communities. We present a case study analysis that attempts to combine these perspectives and examine the role of occupation in the lives of older people who moved to a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). 116 movers completed pre- and post-move questionnaires about their levels of engagement in 20 activities. Frequency distributions, paired t-tests, and logistic regression analyses performed on the data indicate that while overall levels of activity did not change from pre- to post-move, patterns of engagement did change in the course of the move to the CCRC. Some social and cultural activities (e.g., parties, concerts, movies, meetings) increased in frequency, and some maintenance chores (e.g., grocery shopping, housekeeping) and communication (email) decreased in frequency. Moreover, total activity engagement after the move was associated with residential satisfaction in the CCRC. Even with their limitations, the data and analytical findings suggest that occupations are an important part of the CCRC therapeutic landscape process.
Aldrich, R. M. (2008). From complexity theory to transactionalism: Moving occupational science forward in theorizing the complexities of behavior. Journal of Occupational Science, 15(3), 147-156. https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2008.9686624 Show abstract
Over the past decade, the notion of complexity has assumed increasing importance in conceptions of occupational engagement. Several scholars in occupational science and occupational therapy have employed theories of complexity (including chaos theory, dynamic systems theory, and complexity theory) for various ends; however, few have analyzed the continued explanatory utility of these theories vis‐à‐vis occupational constructs. This paper offers one such analysis, and further posits the superiority of Dewey's theory of transactionalism over the systems‐based theories of complexity that currently inform the discipline and profession. Although complexity theory and transactionalism address many similar concepts, their respective ontologies generate notably distinct implications for their application in scholarship on occupation. Upon review, the problems inherent in behavioural applications of complexity theory appear to unnecessarily limit the future theoretical development of occupational science and occupational therapy. Transactionalism, in contrast, more readily lends itself to behavioural applications, and together with its emphasis on interpenetration and co‐constitution, offers greater opportunity for the continued theorization of the complexity of occupation.
Cutchin, M. P., Aldrich, R. M., Bailliard, A. L., & Coppola, S. (2008). Action theories for occupational science: The contributions of Dewey and Bourdieu. Journal of Occupational Science, 15(3), 157-165. https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2008.9686625 Show abstract
Occupational scientists have argued that occupation implies action, but they have not produced sufficient analyses of action theories as potential bases for understanding occupation. We describe this situation and the corresponding need to theorize action as a necessary step for more carefully and powerfully conceptualizing occupation. To begin addressing the problem and need, we provide an analysis of two theorists, John Dewey and Pierre Bourdieu, whose writings about action may be applied to deepen understandings of occupation. Our analysis focuses on three dimensions of action common to both scholars’ theories — habit, context, and creativity. In comparing and contrasting the theories, we find them largely in agreement but also complementary. Through a discussion of the theories via these dimensions, we extend and deepen the transactional view of occupation. In addition, we offer a conceptualization of occupation consistent with the two theorists’ works.
February 3, 2023
Aims of projects include increasing social connections in mental health clubhouses, improving return-to-work, developing trauma-informed framework for minoritized families of autistic girls and better understanding autistic sensory strengths
September 16, 2020
Four USC Chan faculty members and two alumni will be speaking during the American Occupational Therapy Association’s 2020 Education Summit. The annual event brings together hundreds of faculty members from academic institutions across the country to learn about new trends, innovative classroom…
April 25, 2019
This spring semester, USC Chan master’s students had a new elective opportunity in their course options, one that connected them with new classmates halfway around the world.
September 26, 2018
Alumna’s research expertise includes occupational perspectives on marginalized populations.
January 23, 2017
Research journal issue kicks off profession's centennial anniversary celebrations
June 11, 2014
Congratulations to the 39 USC Trojan alumni and faculty members scheduled to present at the 2014 International Congress of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists in Yokohama, Japan. Congrats and Fight On! Click below to view the list.
June 28, 2011
Congratulations to the many USC faculty, students and alumni who were recently published in the April and June 2011 editions of the Journal of Occupational Science. Authors include: Gelya Frank PhD, Professor Elizabeth Pyatak (PhD ’10, MA ’04), Postdoctoral Research Associate Linda Muccitelli…