University of Limerick
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Major trends in the use of occupation as therapy in Ireland 1863-1963

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journal contribution
posted on 2019-03-20, 12:29 authored by Judith PettigrewJudith Pettigrew, Katie RobinsonKatie Robinson, Brid Dunne, Jennifer O'Mahoney
Purpose – Major gaps exist in the documented history of occupational therapy in Ireland. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to filling these gaps by providing an overview of three major transitions in Irish occupational therapy in the century preceding the opening of St. Joseph’s College of Occupational Therapy in 1963. Research on occupational therapy’s past is valuable not only for recording and commemorating key events and individuals but also for allowing reflection on and questioning of contemporary practice and assumptions. Design/methodology/approach – This descriptive paper draws on multiple documentary sources to present an overview of the first 100 years of the use of occupation as therapy/occupational therapy in Ireland from 1863 to 1963. Findings – Three major transitions in occupational therapy in Ireland are presented: from moral treatment and the use of occupation as therapy to medical patronage of occupational therapy, from medical patronage to the early/pre-professional era and finally from the pre-professional era to the era of professionally qualified occupational therapists. To illustrate these transitions, a small number of individuals and their contributions are discussed including Dr Eamon O’Sullivan, Dr Ada English, Donal Kelly, Olga Gale and Ann Beckett. Originality/value – This paper charts the foundations upon which the currently thriving profession of occupational therapy are built. The Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland recently celebrated their 50th anniversary (AOTI, 2015a), and in 2017, it is 100 years since occupational therapy was formalised in Clifton Springs, New York, USA. Occupational therapy is a relatively young profession, and great opportunities exist to research its history in Ireland to capture the memories and experiences of the pioneers who laid the foundation of the profession as well as to situate the development of the profession in the broader social, cultural and scientific contexts within which it developed.



Irish Journal of Occupational Therapy;45 (1), pp. 4-14


Emerald Publishing Ltd.,





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