Occupational Therapy on Doing-Being-Becoming

I have read a couple of interesting articles written by occupational therapists on the subjects of doing, being, and becoming.  Ann Wilcock published an article in 1998 (the citation below is actually for a reprint published a year later) arguing that “a dynamic balance between doing and being is central to healthy living” and that “becoming whatever a person is best fitted to become is dependent on both” (p. 2, italics mine). For Wilcock, doing allows us to interact socially, and develop and grow societally. It is “‘the foundation stone of community, local and national identity'” (p. 4). However, she also argues that we must not forget the notion of being, and not allow our occupational nature to drive us to do too much (see p. 4). According to Wilcock, being “is about being true to ourselves, to our nature, to our essence and to what is distinctive about us to bring to others as part of our relationships and to what we do” (p. 5). This reminds me of Richard Williams‘ definition of agency as “living truthfully.” Finally, Wilcock explains that becoming is a coming to be, adding to the notion of being a sense of future (see p. 5). Having a sense of balance between these three areas – doing, being, and becoming – is essential for health, argues Wilcock.

Lyon et al. use Wilcock’s doing-being-becoming framework to interpret the occupational experiences of the men and women with life-threatening illnesses attending a day hospice program. They summarize Wilcock’s doing-being-becoming framework in this manner: “the first dimension, doing (the active part of occupation that is most readily observable), is the one with which people are understandably most familiar. Less readily appreciated, however, are the occupational dimensions of being (as in “being within self” whereby the doer experiences an enhanced sense of self manifested, perhaps, in a sense of inner peace or in self-discovery) and becoming (the transformative element whereby the doer strives to develop, change, grow, and be better)” (p. 286, italics mine). For hospice participants, the authors see being as composed as to subthemes: relationships for pleasure and worth, and a voyage into the self. The authors notice that “the experience of being through occupation appears strongly linked with the social milieu in which the occupational engagement occurs” (292). Thus their conceptualization of being is more collective than Wilcock’s individualisitic sense of self. Becoming is divided into two subthemes: unexpected new learning and making a contribution. Though I see how these are part of becoming, they also seem heavily about doing. Perhaps that reflects the inclination in occupational therapy (discussed by Wilcock) to focus on doing.

There was an interesting section on how hospice participants viewed participation. “The participants seemed to consider that their day hospice participation was not confined to the world of tangible objects and overt actions. They could legitimately do by sitting and watching others in action; they regularly commented on the importance to them of having this choice over what they did…” (p. 289). The participants “include ‘observing from the sidelines’ as a legitimate form of participation” (p. 294).  This overlaps with Rogoff’s explanation of guided participation. I’ll write more on Rogoff’s ideas very shortly.


Lyons, M., Orozovic, N., Davis, J., & Newman, J. (1998). Doing-being-becoming: occupational experiences of persons with life-threatening illnesses. The American journal of occupational therapy. : official publication of the American Occupational Therapy Association, 56, 3: 285-95. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12058517.

Wilcock, A. A. (1999). Reflections on doing, being and becoming. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 46: 1-11.


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