Abstract

Objective. This qualitative study explored elements of artful practice of therapists practicing in mental health treatment settings.

Method. In-depth interviews were conducted with three occupational therapists practicing in mental health who were considered exemplars of artful practice. Themes pertaining to their perspectives and approaches to practice were synthesized from interview data.

Results. The prevailing themes—therapeutic work as a vehicle for healing, collaborative guidance, and the Zen of therapy—are seen as elements forged by the therapist’s compassion and unique personal style into a dynamic therapist-client interplay that creates a space for growth and healing to occur. Results affirmed the view of the art of practice in mental health as an intricate interplay of personal traits, interpersonal skills, and skilled use of meaningful activities within the context of a client’s environment.

Conclusion. The art of practice is a fluid experiential process that takes place on a developmental continuum. The therapist’s inner awareness of the subtlety of a multi-layered healing process is an important basis of artful practice. One’s practice art can be informed by knowledge of specific elements that contribute to artful practice and can be developed through education, self-reflection, personal growth, and the maturation process.

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