Work. 2022 Sep 2. doi: 10.3233/WOR-220119. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: People with chronic pain may seek rehabilitation to reduce pain and restore productivity and valued roles. Theoretically, a biopsychosocial approach makes rehabilitation more meaningful, however, the limited research on meaningful rehabilitation predominantly describes the perspective of therapists and researchers. The client’s perspective of meaningfulness in rehabilitation is lacking.
OBJECTIVE: To investigate the experience of meaningfulness in rehabilitation from the perspective of people with chronic pain.
METHOD: Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted with Australian adults who had chronic pain and recent experience of occupational therapy or physiotherapy. Sampling continued until thematic saturation occurred. Transcripts were coded and analyzed using theory-driven and data-driven thematic analysis.
RESULTS: Ten participants (four males; six females) were interviewed. Pain histories ranged from nine months to 20+ years, with conditions such as fibromyalgia or trauma. Three themes from a prior concept analysis were upheld, and a further three data-driven themes emerged. Results indicate that people with chronic pain seek a “genuine connection”; from a therapist who is “credible”; and can become a “guiding partner”, and they find rehabilitation meaningful when it holds “personal value”; is “self-defined”; and relevant to their sense of “self-identity”.
CONCLUSIONS: The genuine connection and guiding partnership with a credible therapist, that is sought by people with chronic pain, may be at odds with aspects of contemporary rehabilitation. Client-defined meaningfulness is an important construct to engage clients in treatment and improve work and other occupational outcomes for people with chronic pain.
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