Dr Ellen Nicholson

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Head of Department

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 ext7742

Email: enichols@aut.ac.nz

Physical Address:
Room AA257, AUT North Shore Campus, 90 Akoranga Drive, Northcote 0627, Auckland, New Zealand

Postal Address:
A-11, Department of Occupational Science and Therapy
School of Clinical Sciences
Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences
AUT University, Private Bag 92006, Auckland 1142, New Zealand


Doctor of Health Science, Master of Occupational Therapy (Uni of South Australia), Bachelor of Health Science (Occupational Therapy)

Memberships and Affiliations:

  • Chair of Permanent Scientific Programme Committee for APOTC 2015: http://apotc2015.com/
  • OTNZ Member: http://www.nzaot.com/
  • Journal Reviewer: British Journal of Occupational Therapy, and New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy

Teaching Areas:

  • Occupational therapy practice in mental health
  • Groupwork

Research Areas:

  • Children and young people’s participation
  • Occupational science and practice
  • Occupational and social justice
  • Knowledge construction and translation
  • Occupational therapy education
  • Action learning and participatory action research

Research Summary:

My doctoral research explored how eight occupational therapists working with children and families translated knowledge to inform their practice. The study also explored how participation in the project enabled occupational therapists to overcome concerns about the legitimacy of ‘accepted’ occupational therapy practices with children and families. Using a critical action research methodology, a transformative community of practice was created with the eight co-researchers, and a contemporary occupational therapy textbook was used as a guide to both the meetings and the process of practice transformation. Critical conversations within the community of practice were collected as project data and analysed reflectively and thematically. During analysis, data were allocated to two action phases; a deconstructive-planning phase (named as occupation-inaction), and an action-reconstruction phase (named as occupation-in-action).

Findings from the study suggested that occupational practice was possible when:
1. The courage and investment for practice transformation was acknowledged;
2. The power, press, and privilege of the practice context (the space and place where practice happens) was addressed;
3. A shared space was created to explore and critique social influences practice; and
4. ‘Occupational-knowledge’ was co-constructed and actively translated to inform and transform occupational practice.
The critical moments in occupational practice transformation were consolidated into the VENIA model, presented as a way to support practitioners to actively engage in meaningful practice transformation. Findings and recommendations from the study will resonate with occupational therapists working in a range of practice settings struggling to connect their practice with an occupational philosophy.


  • Nicholson, E. (2013). Collective action and the transformation of occupational therapy practice. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis; Auckland, New Zealand; AUT University. http://aut.researchgateway.ac.nz/handle/10292/6075
  • Nicholson, E., Hocking, C., & Jones, M. (2013). Transforming occupational therapy practice: Lesson’s from the ‘Occupation in Action’ project. Occupational Therapy Australia, 25th National Conference and Exhibition, Adelaide, Australia.
  • Nicholson, E. (2013). Transformative and emancipatory action: Potential for occupational therapy practice and research [Poster]. Occupational Therapy Australia, 25th National Conference and Exhibition, Adelaide, Australia.
  • Hocking, C., & Nicholson, E. (2007). Occupation for occupational therapists: How far will we go. In J. Creek & A. Lawson-Porter (Eds.), Contemporary issues in occupational therapy: Reasoning and reflection (p. 41-54). John Wiley & Sons.
  • Nicholson, E. (2006). Getting the evidence into occupational therapy practice: A review of the process and progress in encouraging evidence based practice in New Zealand. WFOT Bulletin, 53, p. 13-20.