In the field of occupational therapy, an occupation refers to any meaningful pursuit in which an individual engages. A common misconception is that occupation is limited to employment, although work can most definitely be an occupation in the therapeutic sense. For example, if an individual views work solely as a way to obtain a paycheck, he or she may not find meaning in its associated activities. Therefore, the thought of returning to a job may not serve as motivation for engaging 100% in therapy. However, someone who enjoys collecting and restoring antique items may consider this pastime to be an occupation, even if it generates no income, and therefore miss each day he or she is unable to pursue this interest.
On a recent visit to a farmer's market with my husband, I was struck by the vast array of occupations represented by vendors within a single city block, which ranged from growing produce and baking to crafting soap and volunteering on behalf of a local food co-op. Likewise, as supporters of this event, the patrons were actively pursuing their own occupations such as shopping, healthy meal preparation, and, yes, even good old-fashioned people watching. As an occupational therapist, I am challenged to see beyond the walls of the clinic and visualize individuals performing occupations such as these with increased comfort, effectiveness, and safety.