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Power and interests at work : a study of therapeutic recreation program planning in residential care Murphy, Janice

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to develop a deeper understanding of how and why therapeutic recreation (TR) programs are planned in an extended care residential facility and the influence of the context, power and interests on planning. The TR literature does not adequately address the complex context of TR planning practice in residential care and does not help recreation therapists (RTs) understand how to ethically navigate through the power and interests that influence planning. A combination of qualitative research methods including interviews, observations and document analysis were used in this case study, located in the Fraser Valley, British Columbia, Canada. Practicing RTs and their TR Manager were interviewed two to three times each. Three monthly planning meetings and one TR business meeting were observed and recorded and one TR job action planning meeting was recorded. The RTs held strong beliefs about the purpose of TR and its role in contributing to the quality of life of people living in residential care. Organizational, professional, and personal power and interests influenced RTs' planning practice and were important factors in the RTs program planning decisions, whom they involved in making those decisions and thus whose interests were served. The impact of other stakeholders on the RTs planning practice was evident in the study. To competently engage in the sociopolitical activities of planning, the RTs were aware of who was involved in their planning practice (e.g., nurses, care aides, housekeepers, food service workers, volunteers, and family members) and who should be involved more (e.g., isolated and lower cognitive functioning residents). In addition, the RTs utilized several definably different tactics in planning situations involving power issues. Depending upon the circumstances, the power of the stakeholder and the personal style of the individual, the RTs engaged in reasoning, consulting, networking^ appealing, bargaining, counteracting and pressuring. Incorporating the concepts and theories about planning from the adult education literature, a more robust question-based framework for TR is suggested that applies the contextual, sociopolitical and ethical elements of planning to the richly technical and theoretical Leisure Ability Model. Recommendations for practice and for further research are offered.

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