Year of Publication

2020

Date of Thesis

12-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Occupational Therapy

Abstract

Resettlement is a complex transition that involves navigating many people, organizations, and systems. Refugees experience occupational deprivation both pre- and post-migration. As a refugee in the United States, one must simultaneously learn to navigate new life skills, the American culture, legal/health/medical systems, job market, and language with the goal of becoming self-sufficient as soon as possible. This qualitative study sought to highlight the experiences of occupational therapists working within resettlement. This research study explored the barriers and supports for occupational therapists who work with refugee populations. A qualitative phenomenological design examined systemic structures that influence an occupational therapist’s practice when working within refugee resettlement. Three participants were recruited, and each participant was interviewed twice. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis with axial coding. Participants described multi-systemic barriers and supports that impacted their practice as occupational therapists. Participants each provided their unique perspectives of working with resettled refugees. A multisystemic lens was used to analyze the compounding impact of the different supports and barriers that ultimately affected the occupational therapist’s practice. Supports and barriers were analyzed using Dr. Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Model as a guide. Implications for occupational therapy included a push towards inclusive education surrounding areas of occupational justice, cultural humility, and personal reflections. While more research is needed on this topic, this research is a reminder that the epitome of occupational therapy practice is occupational justice. The inclusive nature of the profession extends beyond borders to help all who are experiencing occupational deprivation, including refugees.

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