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Systems Theory

Applied Systems Theory in Occupational Therapy

Jennifer Fortuna

on 6 February 2016

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Transcript of Systems Theory

jENNIFER fORTUNA, ms, otr/l

Developed by Ludwig von Bertalanffy
A biologist from Hungary
opposed to reductionism
officially founded in 1968
Began development 20 years earlier
Waited for paradigm shift to avoid controversy
Systems theory represented a new conceptual structuring and emerging paradigm
About the Author
Ludwig Von Bertalanffy
"The whole is more than
the sum of its parts"
Systems Theory
plural noun: assumptions
A thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.

1. A whole functions as a whole by virtue of the interaction of its parts.

2. An entity is greater than the sum of its parts because it consists of:
Interaction between the parts
Qualities that emerge from these relationships

3. There are many different types of systems including physical, biological,
psychological, sociological, or symbolic.

4. Systems have different qualities (static, mechanical, mechanically self
regulating, or organismically interactive with the environment).

5. There must be a hierarchy to create a sense of order within a system.

Systems theory was influenced by
organismic biology and open systems.

Organismic Biology may be described as organized wholes and the relationships among organs, cells, molecules, etc. rather than their separate parts.

An open system means that there is constant exchange of information, energies, and materials with one's environment. An open system is dynamic.

(Cole & Tufano, 2008)
During the mechanistic paradigm,
(1950's-1970's) scientists studied the
human body by reducing it down to basic
components or parts similar to a machine.

Von Bertalanffy was opposed to reductionism. He believed it was the relationship between the parts that connect into a whole. We understand the whole by regarding the interactions and processes among the different parts.

Any change in one part of a system will automatically alter the whole
(Rapaport, 1986).
Von Bertalanffy believed there are natural laws of organization governing systems on all levels of existence.
(Cole & Tufano, 2008)
Human beings are part of many open systems that are both dynamic and complex. The client constantly interacts with the environment, which in turn, affects his/her internal state of health and well-being. Systems theory may be applied to anyone who is expected to modify behavior based on positive/negative feedback from the environment.
(Cole & Tufano, 2008)
Function is described as a "heterarchy" where the internal parts of a living organism cooperate in a flexible and dynamic manner to best suit the context or situation. Dynamic systems are open, flexible, and able to adapt to achieve the desired outcome.
Dysfunction is described as a "hierarchy" where the internal parts of living organism interact in a fixed or predictable order despite the context or situation. Systems that are fixed, or closed are incapable of adapting or reordering themselves to achieve the desired outcome.
Take time to evaluate the client’s habits, roles and routines by observing the whole process instead of breaking it down into separate isolated parts.

The health care professional recognizes the client is part of many systems that are dynamic and complex.

The goal is therapeutic change through a continuous process, not an event that happens at a single point in time.

Feedback given has both positive and negative influences on the client’s behavior.

Therapeutic change is a continuous process, not an event that happens at a single point in time.

Multiple realities exist within the systems that surround us. The contexts that influence performance are unique for each client. The client’s subjective reality is the focus of intervention, thus facilitating client-centered practice.

Expected outcome: “Engagement in occupation to support participation in context” (AOTA, 2014).

Physical Context: Environmental factors influence human behavior and performance. The concept of universal design is one example of how physical context supports human performance.
Social Context: There are many different levels of social context within the client’s immediate living environment. A social system includes anyone in the client’s social circle such as a spouse, children, caregivers, extended family, friends, coworkers, and people in the community. Social roles are described as behaviors with expected norms. Social roles are often used to organize occupations during treatment. Competence is determined by how well the client is able to perform according to social expectations.
Cultural Context: Social and cultural contexts have many points of overlap. Every social system has its own unique culture shared by its members. Cultural context includes customs, beliefs, activity patterns, rights, political views, and expectations from society. Culture is observed in the client’s lifestyle and social interactions. The client’s definition of success and failure is significant when defining cultural context.
Personal Context: The World Health Organization defines personal context as an individuals features that are not part of a health condition, or described by health status (WHO, 2001). Some examples include age, gender, race, ethnic background, socio-economic status, religious/political affiliation, and sexual orientation. Social, cultural and personal context have many points of overlap.
Spiritual Context: Human spirituality is difficult to separate from the other contexts. In client-centered practice, practitioners ask their clients to prioritize their goals and to make intervention meaningful. The Canadian Model of Occupational Performance (CMOP) places spirituality at the center of the client’s identity.
Temporal Context: Factors include time of day, duration and daily schedule. Occupational performance at a point in time helps to define stages of development across the lifespan. Theories of development help to guide our thinking about developmentally appropriate activities.
Virtual Context:The environment in which communication, information exchange and entertainment occur by means of technology, and in absence of physical contact. Some examples include computers, cell phones, tablets, television and audio transmissions. Tele-health enables practitioners with a means of facilitating virtual ‘home-visits.’
Consideration of context represents a systems approach to disability

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2014). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain & process. (3rd Ed.). The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(1), 1-48.

Cole, M.B., & Tufano, R.T. (2008). Applied theories in occupational therapy. Thorofare, NJ: SLACK Incorporated.

Kielhofner, G. (1978). General systems theory: Implications for theory and action in occupational therapy. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 32, 637-645.

Rapaport, A. (1986). General systems theory: Essential concepts and application. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Spencer, J.C. (2003). Evaluation of performance contexts. In E. Crepeau, E. Cohn, & B Boyt Schell (Eds.), Willard & Spackman’s occupational therapy (10th ed.). Baltimore, MD: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.

Spencer, J.C., Perone, S., & Buss, A.T. (2011). Twenty years and going strong: A dynamic systems revolution in motor and cognitive development. Child Development Perspectives, 5(4), 260-266.

Von Bertalanffy, L (1968).

World Health Organization. (2001). International classification of functioning, disability, and health (ICF). Geneva: Author.

• Rejects reductionism to facilitate holism.
• Recognizes each client as an individual who experiences
life within various contexts.
• The client’s subjective reality fuels client-centered practice.

• May be difficult to pinpoint the source of the problem.
According to Spencer, Perone, & Bruss (2011) cognition is
not solely responsible for human behavior, but instead it
constructs behavior.
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