Exploring the potential of embroidering as a therapeutic intervention in occupational therapy

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This research evolved from a perceived need within occupational therapy to better understand the therapeutic potential of specific craft activities, to create evidence for reviving their use within contemporary practice. Historically, it was observed that such activities enhanced health but research showing the mechanism was lacking and so their use largely fell out of favour within the profession. With current interest on exploration of the influence of arts on health the investigation focused on embroidering as a contemporary but under-investigated craft. The research question aimed to establish how embroidering can influence meaningful change in relation to a person in the context of their everyday life.

    This qualitative narrative inquiry-based study was situated in the United Kingdom and draws on social-constructionist epistemology with a relativist ontology. Theoretical assumptions were further grounded on Occupational Science, occupational therapy as a complex intervention and narrative theory. Discursive data were gathered through unstructured interviews which included examination of embroideries, observation, participation in embroidering and visiting embroidery related events in partnership with five women who regularly embroidered. Data were transcribed verbatim and interpreted through narrative analysis.

    The findings suggest that embroidering can promote meaningful and purposeful change in a person's everyday life through an agential companionship involving body, mind and materials. This solitary and reciprocal relationship is intimate, situated, and develops over time and this is proposed as the means for therapeutic potential. In the development of such a close affiliation the person and product become inseparable. Entanglement transpires through deep and sustained engagement with tools and materials.

    Once established this agential companionship can provide resources that are used to cope with everyday life. Embroidering offers diversity in techniques in order to meet a variety of personal needs which range from relaxation and escape to excitement and risk. Correlated responses range from sedative to simulative. The combination of responses become meaningful experiences associated with embroidering. Contextual narratives promote or inhibit engagement, including initiation into the field, female stereotype, amateurism and ambiguity of an embroidery as a product.

    The power of the agential companionship may explain the recent enthusiasm for crafting and supports research that shows how the arts can promote health and well-being. Consideration of mutual agency within the body, mind and material companionship is needed to further explore the transformative potential of engagement in specific crafts so that occupational therapists can return to using crafts as media for improving and sustaining health and well-being in line with global health initiatives.
    Date of Award14 Apr 2020
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorGaynor Sadlo (Supervisor), Kay Aranda (Supervisor) & Graham Stew (Supervisor)

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