Embracing client-centred research in occupational therapy

I was excited after reading a blog post by Marie Ennis O’Connor “The unknown unknowns: crowdsourcing research through social media” (May 8, 2015). O’Connor argued for the importance of making patients central to the process of health research.

As O’Connor contended, more usually it is researchers or health workers who decide what should be researched, and yet, it is clients who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the knowledge that is generated. If clients are not consulted about research during the initial scoping and design phase, there may be a mismatch between the questions that they want answers to and those that researchers are investigating (O’Connor, 2015).

As a researcher, the idea of conducting research with the people who will most benefit from it is very interesting and invigorating to me. Research is hard work and takes time; researchers want their work to be used by people. It is frustrating to think that after the days, weeks, and years of work invested, the findings may not be utilised. However, if the people who can most benefit from the research are included at the outset and throughout the research process, then it is clear that they will be much more likely to use the findings and share them with their friends, families, and communities.

One of the core values of occupational therapy is a commitment to client-centred practice, and now I can also see how this idea is also very relevant to research. I was already enamoured with the idea of crowdsourcing – which is when many people collaborate together to invest in and support a project (such as making a film, undertaking research, or advancing a cause) – and now I can see how it might be applied to creating client-centred research.

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