Osteopaths' professional views, identities and conceptions – a qualitative grounded theory study

Oliver P. Thomson, Nicola Petty, A. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The professional status of osteopathy calls for the critical evaluation of the beliefs, knowledge and conceptions which underlie practitioners' clinical practice. Objectives: To explore experienced osteopaths' professional identities, views and overall conceptions of osteopathy in the UK. Methods: This qualitative study employed constructivist grounded theory set in the interpretive research paradigm. The constant comparative method of analysis was used to analyse and code interview data. A total of seventeen semi-structured interviews were conducted with twelve UK registered osteopaths. Data collection methods involved semi-structured interviews with participants and observation and video-recording of clinical appointments, which were followed by video-prompted reflective interviews. Results: There was diversity in how osteopaths viewed different aspects of their professional practice. Views were constructed into the major categories of: professional identity, traditional osteopathic theories and principles, health and disease and practice skills. Together these views formed three qualitatively different overall conceptions of osteopathy, termed: practitioner-centred osteopathy, collaborative osteopathy, and osteopathy as empowerment. Conclusions: Osteopaths in this study held differing views, identities and conceptions in relation to their practise of osteopathy. This diversity in professional identities and conceptions may help to explain the variation of individual osteopaths' clinical decision-making and clinical approaches, thereby contributing to an epistemology of osteopathy. These findings may be helpful to educators when planning curricula and clinically tutoring osteopathy students. Further research is required to explore how these views and conceptions develop and evolve during undergraduate education and on-going professional development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-159
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Osteopathic Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2014


  • Osteopathy
  • Osteopathic medicine
  • Knowledge
  • Decision-making
  • Clinical reasoning
  • Professionalisation
  • Professional identity
  • Grounded theory


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