Complementary and alternative medicine's attempts at occupational closure: a thematic analysis driven by grounded theory

Joana Almeida

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When I embarked on my PhD in 2007, I embraced two research areas which became my main areas of sociological interest: health and the professions. I had decided to explore the topic of complementary and alternative medicine practitioners in Portugal. My decision was influenced by the fact that very little sociological analysis had been done on the dynamics of complementary and alternative medicine in Portugal, particularly from the perspective of the sociology of professions, an area within sociology which analyzes the role and status of professionals in society. In some countries, the “revival” of complementary and alternative medicine and the professionalization of complementary and alternative medicine practitioners were being increasingly discussed and analyzed. I decided to contribute to closing this knowledge gap by exploring these topics in Portugal. I analyzed complementary and alternative medicine practitioners’, medical doctors’, and institutional actors’ perspectives on complementary and alternative medicine regulation and adopted a sociological lens based on a neo-Weberian theory of the professions, a theory centered on the strategies used by occupational groups to gain and/or maintain professional standing in the marketplace. In this case study, I provide an account of how dominant strategies used by complementary and alternative medicine practitioners to gain professional status within health care in Portugal can be derived from a thematic analysis of 20 semi-structured interviews with traditional acupuncturists and traditional homeopaths. With this case, I illustrate (a) how thematic analysis embraces chaos and uncertainty but ends in a rewarding systematization of the data and engagement with theory, and (b) how I combined thematic analysis with grounded theory to simultaneously verify, validate, and generate theory.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSAGE Research Methods Cases
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2017


  • Thematic Analysis; Grounded Theory; Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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