From 'Gibbering Idiot' to 'Iceman', Kenny's Story: a Critical Analysis of an Occupational Narrative

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Narratives can offer rich, valuable and powerful insights. However, they do not stand on their own: they need to be interpreted and contextualised. This paper offers a critical analysis of the occupational narrative of one man's journey towards finding a new occupational identity after experiencing mental health problems.

The narrative reveals something of the man's, Kenny's, lived experience and his occupational needs, drivers and trajectory. The value of occupation (rather than simply employment) is demonstrated. The narrative is then briefly analysed: first, by taking a phenomenological approach focusing on the lived experience and, secondly, by taking a social constructionist approach which highlights how the story is both performed and co-constructed.

This two-pronged analysis demonstrates how narratives are produced and constructed in particular social contexts. How we understand a narrative depends on how we frame it and the theoretical perspectives that we bring to bear. It is important to be reflexive – that is, to be critically self-aware – as we engage in narrative inquiry.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2004

More about this publication?
  • The British Journal of Occupational Therapy (BJOT) is the official journal of the College of Occupational Therapists. Its purpose is to publish articles relevant to theory, practice, research, education and management in occupational therapy internationally.

    BJOT publishes research articles, critical reviews, practice analyses, opinion pieces, editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews and an annual index. Please refer to the author's guide at

    Submissions can be made at

    The 2013 Impact Factor for The British Journal of Occupational Therapy is 0.897.

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