Occupational therapy has a strong history of embracing concepts of client empowerment. However there is limited literature in the field on how to achieve empowerment, or on how to extend empowerment to the level of the community and social groups and services within it. This article discusses how concepts and strategies of participatory action research, an extension of empowerment theory, can be used to inform service development and evaluation in occupational therapy. The participatory action research approach is illustrated using two case examples of participatory action research programs for persons with chronic fatigue syndrome and individuals with autoimmune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). A critical analysis of the application of this approach to research and practice is provided. Finally, the paper identifies key principles of participatory action research that can be used to guide occupational therapy services and empower both individuals and communities.

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