Religion Out of the Dark: A Collaborative, Analytic Autoethnography


Supervisor: Barry Trentham and Jill Stier

Student MScOT Researchers: Moira Ruthralingam and Emma Greenberg

Year of study: 2017/18




Religious identity is a meaningful aspect of many individuals’ lives and is occupationally expressed through a diversity of traditions, rituals, and practices; however, many occupational therapists feel unprepared to address this concept in practice. More research is needed to better understand the factors that influence how occupational therapy students develop ease with discussing religious identity as it is expressed in the occupational lives of others. Comfort with these discussions is particularly pressing in contexts of social diversity that require inclusive approaches to practice. This study aimed to explore factors affecting engagement in conversations about religion in an occupational therapy context.

We carried out a collaborative, analytical autoethnography, that drew on our unique perspectives and varied religious identities. Through reflective journals and audio-taped discussion sessions, we explored questions arising from personal, work, and academic interactions concerned with religious identity and expression, including cross-cultural dialogue. Data was transcribed and analyzed for emerging themes relating to our research objective.

Findings focused on common themes that arose from our collaborative reflections. Themes were explored as they fit into three categories relating to engagement in religion-based conversations:

  • What we bring
  • Inhibitors we face
  • Enablers we can use

The insights examined in this study may facilitate reflections on attitudes and behaviours and increase productive conversations around religion with one another and ultimately in the classroom and in practice.

Findings from this project were presented at the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) 2018 Annual Conference in Vancouver. This project also received the award for “Best Overall Presentation” at the University of Toronto Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy Student Research Day 2018. Congratulations Moira and Emma!


Scroll to Top