When we think about context, the environment often comes to mind first. However, the personal context is also another thing that we should consider for our clients. In the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework (OTPF-4), context is “a broad construct defined as the environmental and personal factors specific to each client (person, group, population) that influence engagement and participation in occupations.”
Contexts are important as they can affect a client’s access to (or lack of access to) their occupations. “Personal factors are generally considered to be enduring, stable attributes of the person, although some personal factors change over time.”
Examples of personal contexts include:
- Chronological age
- Sexual orientation (sexual preference, sexual identity)
- Gender identity
- Race and ethnicity
- Cultural identification and attitudes
- Social background, social status, and socioeconomic status
- Upbringing and life experiences
- Habits and past and current behavioral patterns n Psychological assets, temperament, unique character traits, and coping styles
- Profession and professional identity
- Health conditions and fitness status (that may affect
the person’s occupations but are not the primary concern of the occupational therapy encounter)
Looking at these personal context factors, can you think of how any of combination of these can limit one’s access to occupations? Gender inequality, racial inequality, and lower socio-economic status are some examples of how one’s educational or job prospects can be limited. Or one’s sexual orientation. You may think gender in today’s world may not be a factor. But with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, for example, women’s access to sexual health surrounding abortion has been seriously limited in some states.
Psychology also comes into play when it comes to personal contexts in occupational therapy. According to the OTPF, these include “individual psychological assets, including temperament, character traits, and coping styles, for handling responsibilities, stress, crises, and other psychological demands”.
So when we think about a client and their occupation, possibility their environment, it is important to be client-centered and to consider all the potential personal contexts that may promote or limit one’s occupational performance.