Strategies for resolving relational dilemmas while developing therapists' professional identity

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7 Scopus citations


Coping with relational dilemmas constitutes one of the core competencies of the therapeutic professions. Although students and novice therapists who are transitioning to becoming therapists often experience relational dilemmas as a threat to their professional identity, there is scant literature on strategies to help them develop their professional identity. This inductive study is based on data collected from group supervision courses for undergraduate students in Occupational Therapy in 12 groups over six years. The findings emerged from the analysis of 196 dilemma cases presented by the students in class, combined with the 196 personal reflections that the that students wrote at the end of the course about their personal development as occupational therapists. This study presents the five strategies that appeared most critical for coping with these dilemmas and by extension, for identify formation: (1) looking for the overarching goal, (2) differentiating facts from interpretations, (3) understanding what the 'other' is trying to say, (4) discovering the dialogue between the inner voices, and (5) the notions of Having, Doing, and Being. The strategies are based on cognitive models and behavioral repertoires in the literature, and can provide guidelines for student therapists to use to transition from class to workplace. They can also be implemented by clinical instructors and academic educators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)827-845
Number of pages19
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Coping strategies
  • Group supervision
  • Professional identity
  • Professional socialization
  • Relational dilemma


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