Recovery as an occupational journey: A scoping review exploring the links between occupational engagement and recovery for people with enduring mental health issues

Nastaran Doroud, Ellie Fossey, Tracy Fortune

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Background/aim: Mental health recovery can be defined in variety of different ways. First person accounts of people experiencing mental health issues and qualitative studies of recovery suggest engaging in personally meaningful and socially valued occupations is important during the process of recovering. This scoping review sought to explore how occupational engagement and recovery are interrelated. 

Methods: Using Arksey and O'Malley's (2005) framework to guide the scoping review, searches of four electronic databases, manual citation tracking, and key authors' publications were conducted. Seventeen studies, published in the last 30 years, relevant to the topic were identified. Each was reviewed and data extracted to categorise the similarities and differences into themes. 

Results: Most studies used qualitative, phenomenological and narrative research approaches. Findings across the studies indicate recovery is an ongoing occupational process that seems to involve experiences of gradual re-engagement, engaging within the stream of everyday occupational life, and full community participation. Engaging in meaningful and valued occupations appears to support recovering through fostering connectedness, hope, identity, meaning, and empowerment; establishing structured routines and assisting people in managing illness. 

Conclusion: This scoping review indicates occupational engagement is an important dimension of the recovery process: recovering is experienced through engaging in occupations, which, in turn, fosters personal recovery. Employment and volunteering have received most attention in studies of occupation and recovery. A broader view of the experiences and factors involved in the processes of 'occupational recovery' warrants further exploration to advance theory and inform recovery-oriented occupational therapy practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-392
Number of pages15
JournalAustralian Occupational Therapy Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Mental health
  • Occupational science
  • Psychiatric disability
  • Recovery

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