Transcending the individual: The promise and potential of collectivist approaches in occupational therapy

Anna Malfitano , Gail Whiteford, Matthew Molieux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


In a globalised world, with injustices and inequities, occupational therapists have a moral and ethical obligation to use their knowledge and skills to work at a collective level with groups, communities, and populations rather than focus solely on individualistic approaches.
Objectives: To review the literature exploring the question: What do occupational therapists do in their everyday practice that could be characterised as having a collectivist orientation?
Method: A scoping review with searches on Web of Science, Scopus and CINAHL databases with the keywords ‘occupational therapy’ AND collective.Results: 161 articles were found and after screening of abstracts and/or full text, 19 were included. Articles were published in English (13) and Portuguese (6), in 12 different journals and one book, from 1988 to 2018. They were categorised as focussing on: social welfare – collectivism (n ¼ 2); collective occupations (n ¼ 11); and collective oriented practices (n ¼ 6).
Conclusion: A clear definition of collectivist approaches in occupational therapy practice was not found. What was evident, however, was a focus on experiential accounts of working with groups of people and the methods and processes utilised. It is argued that occupational therapy needs to further develop knowledge and practices aimed at injustices grounded in a collectivist epistemology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-200
Number of pages14
JournalScandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy
Issue number3
Early online date27 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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