Inspirational OTs Doing it Differently

Over the years, I have encouraged OTs who are working in different ways or doing OT differently, to write a couple of paragraphs about themselves.  Instead of hiding them in Blog entries, I have now made this new page dedicated to OTs who do it Differently!

OTs Doing it Differently: Kate Sheehan

Work, life balance is always hard to achieve but sometimes you have to manage your life in a different way to achieve that essential balance between your professional and personal goals. I was motivated to re-evaluate my life, after working in statutory services for a number of years and realising that I was missing my young’s son nativity because in the words of my manager ‘it was not in the strategic interests of the organisation to allow me time off to attend’ I certainly was not getting the balance right for my son or for me.

It was at that point that I jumped ship and moved into independent practice, because I could choose when and how I worked and found that if I was honest about my reasons for working certain hours, 99% of my clients understood completely and were incredible positive about my family circumstances. Initially I worked as moving and handling expert and then further developed my housing adaptation skills.

As a independent practitioner you have to learn to sell yourself, which for me did not sit very comfortably, I was lucky that a very kind QC, told me that I was not charging enough, I had excellent court skills and should double my fees, he stated that if you are too cheap you will not be valued, his comment was ‘ be reassuringly expensive, you have the skills and knowledge, just believe in yourself’.

Networking is also key and really one of the core skills of a Occupational Therapists, I really enjoyed walking in to a room of strangers and finding people I can engage with, yet, the other skill is removing yourself politely when you realise that that person is not going to further develop your business, tricky and a little callous, but essential.

Also you need to raise your profile, I took on roles that increase my skill base, I applied for roles within the COT housing specialist section, sat on a housing association board and volunteered for committees with in the Department of Communities and Local Government all off which raised my profile.

My passion was and still is aesthetically designed adaptations that promote independence and I have been fortunate enough to work with some amazing mainstream companies on product design for the ageing population. So how did this happen? Who can I recognise as introducing me into this sector? Well it was Julia Skelton at the College of Occupational Therapist who was listening me rant about the ugliness of product and equipment design she decided to introduce me to a gentleman in Ideal Standard, who arranged to meet me the following week and for whom I have provided a consultancy ever since. It has also allowed me to speak at conferences both nationally and internationally, which has further raised my profile.

Since then I have built my own small but perfectly formed business which specializes in consultancy and advice to companies and housing assessment and deign advice to individuals.

Being part of a growing business requires you to understand the skills we have as Occupational therapists, recognise that there is a value to our knowledge and experience. The art is then transferring this into a business proposal that an individual or company wants to ‘purchase’, always a challenge but incredibly rewarding.

So 12 years on was my move worth it, oh yes, I have presented in Sydney, run the first accessible housing courses in Bosnia and Croatia, been part of the team who developed a MSc in Housing at York University, worked for mainstream companies, lunched at the House of Lords, represented the profession on COTEC and been a mum, wife and friend.

So does my life still have a balanced approach….yes most of the time, I am presently writing this article whilst on Scout camp over looking the sea with the sound of 38 kids screaming with laughter having just build a water catapult, so it certainly feels very balanced today.

If you would like to join our team, please email us your CV at or visit our website at


OTs Doing it Differently:Dr. Pauline Cooper, Occupational Writing Therapist

“The Thought Laundry”

“Nineteen years ago I began to explore the use of writing in my OT practice as a means of making sense of life for people with poor mental health. The clients I worked with seemed to fall into two groups: those who enjoyed writing stories, poems and such like, and those who stated: ‘I don’t know who I am anymore, I feel stuck, I need to do something to move myself forward’. They did not want to do creative writing, nor did they want to complete Pennebaker’s (1978) three day, 20 minute free write on the page, which was the only non-creative writing method I could find at that time. Happily, the clients were prepared to work with me using applied writing exercises, as therapy. Over time, our collaborations evolved into Using Writing as Therapy (UWaT): collections of powerful exercises found to have benefit.

Ten research years (1998 – 2008) took me through a Master’s, where I developed ‘the Thought Laundry’ exploring resilience, and the metaphoric ‘Red Sock’, and the subsequent Doctorate (Cooper 2001, 2008, 2013) developing Using Writing as Therapy (UWaT). I have continued cultivating the use of writing and my work has blossomed into a whole range of writing modalities for health and well-being. The way writing works so successfully is unclear. There appear to be a number of ‘containers’ (Cooper 2014) or spaces in which people process their thoughts, commit to the page and then share.

For the last fourteen years I have been developing and evaluating writing in healthcare (mental and physical) in a large National Health Trust. I feel it is time now for me to become an independent practitioner and see how writing can be used in even more situations. UWaT: finding identity, a six-session manualised course exploring identity and self esteem, has been found to significantly reduce contact with services and assist people to move on with their lives.

A new UWaT: finding out how ‘Me’ works, also a six session manualised course, is now being used to help people who are having difficulty envisioning themselves having a ‘working’ identity or self. Who you are at home can be very different to who you are in work; even if that is being a carer, or volunteer, student or paid employee. The two UWaT courses are available as training and both courses have been endorsed by the College of Occupational Therapists.

The Thought Laundry also includes work for resilience, life story, and many other activities, though it is not about ‘good’ writing or publication.
See more: or contact Pauline at

Cooper PR (2001) Creative writing, the arts and education. Unpublished MA thesis. Falmer: University of Sussex.Cooper PR (2008) The use of creative writing as a therapeutic activity for mental health in occupational therapy. Unpublished PhD thesis. Falmer: University of Sussex.Cooper P (2013) Writing for depression in health care. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 76(4), 186-193.Cooper PR (2014) Using Writing as Therapy: finding identity. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 77(12), 619–622.

OTs Doing it Differently:Peter Scotcher Occupational Therapist and WRAP facilitator

“I did it!”

These words came spontaneously out of my mouth on Christmas Eve 2014 when I left the office of the mental health team for the last time. My career with the NHS began in 2003 when I started an Occupational Therapy (OT) degree at Sheffield Hallam University. Prior to that I had been a support worker for a private Brain Injury Rehab company and I always liked the idea of health care outside the NHS. I also had a feeling that “private practice” was the dark side, putting money before people.

In my post in the mental health team I heard myself complaining about the tension between care coordination and OT, I also had great difficulty discharging clients when I felt we were just getting started. I went to a conference at The British Association of Occupational Therapy in London and heard Jen Gash use plants as an analogy for developing ideas and providing the best conditions for growth. I also heard that the journey isn’t a straight line, but a meandering unpredictable path. I won a competition for an hour of coaching with Jen. This was a chance to fertilise and water the seedlings.

I discovered Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP) at MIND in Bradford and started an evolution from mental health professional to peer facilitator. This new territory involved; self disclosure, accepting non-staff members as colleagues, working in a church hall and a nursery. I started to let go of taking referrals, assessing, and giving advice.

During this process I felt exposed and exhilarated. I saw group members exchange ideas and resources that I had never considered. I have powerful memories of saying very little in a group discussion about suicide, thinking “are these people giving each other dangerous ideas?”. The group expressed fears and experiences, and found hope in sharing thoughts, exploring ways to move on from desperate situations.

In October 2013 I incorporated “Brium”, a social enterprise with the mission to make peer support widely available. In the following year I co-facilitated WRAP groups funded by statutory bodies and a charity. I saved enough money to pay my bills for a few months and resigned from the NHS.

I now work full time for Brium, I am part of a growing network of accredited WRAP facilitators who provide inspiring peer group courses. Part of my support network is a coach from my previous employer, just when I think I don’t need her any more, something happens that I want to talk over.

The new world I inhabit sometimes fills me with fear as I try to understand the tendering process, tax, and marketing. I have no regrets, I feel sharp I’m living on my wits. I don’t know exactly how the coming months and years of my career will look. However, I have a chance to create, to work flexibly and to be a part of a growing movement of support being provided by peers. Surely this isn’t the dark side of health care!


OTs Doing it Differently: Barbara Neiman

“Mindfulness and Yoga Skills for Children and Adolescents: 115 Activities for Trauma, Self Regulation, Special Needs and Anxiety”  a book by Barbara Neiman

Unique exercises in yoga, meditation, guided imagery and somatic explorations fill this comprehensive skills guide. This book is brimming with tools and stories supporting critical life skills for families, classrooms and therapy sessions.

Holistic strategies include:
•    Meditation to support body-mind-spirit connection
•    Yoga pose adaptations for Autism, sensory processing & special needs
•    Trauma sensitive guided imagery
•    Parenting tools to enjoy silence and nature
•    Designing a personal mantra
•    Classroom interventions

This book directly addresses ways to counteract the loss of time in nature, teaches trauma sensitivity, mindful parenting, tools to manage our digital lives, classroom interventions and how to safely listen for the still, small voice of the intuitive self.

Barbara Neiman is an Integrative Occupational Therapist, Yoga Teacher, a coach for professionals seeking a holistic practice and a National Seminar Presenter. She teaches courses on Yoga and Mindfulness around the country. She created her company, Health Discovery, in 1988, to provide services for infants through school age children. A Certified Practitioner of Body Mind Centering since 1989, she is a single parent of an adopted child.  See her DVD’s at and watch for her new website at Barbara provides online, coaching, OT and Yoga therapy for children and adults.

Contact her at or on her website
OTs Doing it Differently: Mick Collins

Book Review: “The UnSelfish Spirit:Human Evolution at a time of global crisis” by Mick Collins, reviewed by Maggie Jeffery

I’ve been a closet OT all my life but way back in the 60’s inadvertently trained as a nurse instead. Since then the challenges that life produces have drawn me time and again to awareness of the vital importance of balancing ‘Doing’ as well as ‘Being’. Psychosynthesis training in fact included the old song – ‘Do, Be, Do, Be, Do’. How easy is it to find such balance in everyday life today, I wonder?

With so much wisdom in this book, it’s difficult to highlight any particular part. But I was especially drawn to the chapter on ‘The Alchemy of Occupational Engagement’. This refers to human potential and describes ‘being’ and ‘doing’ as complementary in the individual transformative process. Collins points out (p133) a comment by Satish Kumar about how spirituality can be discovered through simple practices where being and doing interact – such as baking bread for example.

This is a book about the ever deepening process of personal growth towards self- discovery and the fundamental spiritual nature at the heart of our being. I can’t recommend it enough because it tackles crisis and transformation at a time when the world faces challenges that seem overwhelming. It is timely and very relevant to Occupational Therapy.

OTs Doing it Differently: Eva Nakopoulou, Occupational Therapist, Bristol.

Eva talks about her contribution to “The Occupational Therapist’s Guide to Sleep and Sleep Problems” and her interest in “sleep” as a vital domain in OT.

“Edward Norton playing the narrator in Fight Club says: ‘When you have insomnia, you’re never really asleep…and you’re never really awake’ and look where his insomnia got him! Hollywood aside, we all have experienced at least one night’s bad sleep (or no sleep at all) and the affect it had on our daily lives.

Sleep has a direct impact on our function, routines and roles, and for some it is considered as a meaningful occupation. Therefore it comes as no surprise that sleep and rest were added as domains of occupation in the 2008 version of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Occupational Therapy Practice Framework (AOTA, 2008).

At the same time in U.K. came Green’s (2008) article, where he was advocating that sleep is fundamental in sustaining occupational balance and thus as occupational therapists we should be asking our clients about their sleep and explore whether Occupational Therapy can form part of the solution to their sleep problems. And the solution, or intervention for many sleep problems can often be found in the levels of activity during the day and the living and sleeping environment, both of which lay within the remit of Occupational Therapy.

Not long after, I published an article with Sophie Cullen (2012) on our experience as final year students on a role emerging placement in a primary healthcare centre of a Category B Male Adult prison. There we worked on scoping out the potential for occupational therapy and we set up a sleep group for prisoners who suffered from sleep deprivation. Andrew Green read this and we eventually met on a workshop he was delivering and decided to collaborate in the book An Occupational Therapist’s Guide to Sleep and Sleep Problems published in February 2015.

Andrew had the sleep expertise and I along with Emma and Megan (co-authors) had the learning disabilities expertise – a match was made. And this is how most of the book has been written, a collaboration between the editors, who are occupational therapy sleep experts and specialist occupational therapists working in a variety of areas including mental health, chronic fatigue syndrome, paediatrics, dementia and the list goes on. I may be a bit biased about the book when I think it is a good Occupational Therapy book, but what I am certain of, is that I really enjoyed the process and I learned a lot through my contributions.”
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2008) Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process (2nd ed). American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 62(6), pp.625–683.
Green, A. (2008) Sleep, Occupation and the Passage of Time. British Journal of Occupational Therapy. 71(8), pp. 339-347.
Green, A. and Brown, C. (eds) (2015) An Occupational Therapist’s Guide to Sleep and Sleep Problems. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Nakopoulou, E. and Cullen, S. (2012) Our time in prison. OT News. 20(4), pp.30-31.

OT Doing it Differently:Erin Phillips
Assistant Professor, St. Ambrose University, IOWA

This is a summary of an educational project I am implementing in a health promotion course for OT students. I am really interested in how to best prepare our students to “do OT differently!” This project involves teaching empowerment through coaching strategies. The students will experience coaching for self-assessment, learn a few tools from motivational interviewing and coaching, and practice them in a community setting. I am eager to see how this experience resonates with them in terms of their confidence to work more in health promotion and to utilize coaching as a strategy for health behavior modification.

Occupational therapy (OT) education is an important part of creating healthcare professionals that are ready to meet the health needs of our society. In order to create meaningful learning that translates into clinical practice, OT curricula needs to investigate the use of innovative models. Experiential learning means students have the opportunity to practice what they learn in a very real and active way. This project has been developed to offer occupational therapy students the chance to learn about wellness programming and coaching strategies, as well as have an opportunity to practice these learned skills in a community setting. One of the ways in which OT can help people stay healthy is by assisting them in understanding how the activities of each day make an impact on their health. This is especially important for older adults, as sometimes we tend to give up activities as we age. The Well Elderly Program is a well-established program that can help older adults to stay active and healthy. Students will have the chance to teach this program to a community group of older adults as part of a graduate course experience.

It is important to teach people about activity and health, but it is also important to help them make the changes they desire. One important way to help people achieve healthier living is to coach them toward their goals. Occupational therapy students will be taught coaching strategies in the classroom and they will have the chance to use them as part of this project. The students will present three group sessions of the Well Elderly Program and they will meet with one older adult and use coaching methods to help them set a goal and move toward that goal.

Finally, the students will be asked to reflect on this experience; how their abilities have changed and how their feelings about wellness programming and coaching have changed. This project will allow OT students to experience teaching and coaching in a community of older adults and may help them to feel more confident about doing this kind of work as they enter their careers.

Erin Phillips is Assistant Professor of occupational therapy at St. Ambrose University. She received her Master of Science in OT from Washington University and will complete this project as a post-professional doctoral student at St. Catherine University. Her research and practice interests are in the areas of health promotion, yoga, and coaching strategies as potential links to primary care services.

Mandel, D., Jackson, J., Zemke, R., Nelson, L., & Clark, F. (1999). Lifestyle Redesign: Implementing the Well Elderly Program. Bethesda, MD: AOTA Press.

OT Doing it Differently: Vanessa Volpe

I have been very fortunate to experience both traditional and non-traditional approaches to my work as a role emerging (RE) OT. I have always been fascinated by the concept of colour as a therapeutic medium, and for 25+ years have attended training courses to explore this concept. I graduated in 2000 with BSc (Hons) OT and completed a ‘basic grade rotation’ before being offered a Senior II post. Simultaneously I was developing myself as a self-employed therapist using ‘complementary approaches’, facilitating workshops, 1:1 interventions, collaborating with a non-profit therapy clinic, and working with local community.

I generally kept my work as an OT very separate to my practice using ‘complementary approaches’ which I found frustrating. I didn’t know of any other OTs practicing ‘off the beaten track’ and those I did speak to were wary of moving away from predefined (medical?) approaches. Being invited to supervise an OT at the non-profit clinic was an interesting turning point for me, as I realised that RE was in vogue, I no longer felt quite so isolated, but my passion for colour still felt strictly taboo – I had years of anecdotal evidence suggesting that colour influenced occupation, but where was it in the OT literature?

Working in a traditional RE setting, as a manager for a charity, engaging hard to reach communities meeting government led local targets, I began to supervise OT students, again, developing innovative supervision approaches, and encouraged students to find their own ‘preferred occupation’. I was fortunate to be also using colour awareness for well-being as part of this role, building up my anecdotal evidence.

At this time, a serendipitous meeting led to the ‘colour for well-being’ pilot, which took place within a larger 3-year research project. A peer reviewed publication (Parkes and Volpe 2012) and international ‘Colour my Well-being’ conference followed. I now confidently use ‘colour’ within my private practice, taking referrals from GPs, self-referrals and elsewhere. Some of my clients also receive OT within the NHS, but choose to come to me privately because I offer something unique and of meaning to them. Other clients are high functioning, successful individuals, who want a professional to assist with occupations such as career development, or relationship changes.

My work continues to emerge, my MSc Advanced OT is exploring colour within primary care interior design with socially excluded patients, and I’m looking forward to working in Europe this year, collaborating with a community arts specialist teaching arts and drama students new approaches. If there was one piece of advice I would give to those considering RE practice? Take some steps today…

Contact details: website:

OT’s doing it differently: Awele Odeh

My name is Awele Odeh and I’m based in East London/ Essex border. I’ve worked as an OT for 11 yrs. In 2007 I decided that I needed to rejeuvenate my passion for OT (we’ve all felt this way, I know), so I invested in a new set of skills and I studied to become an NLP Master Practitioner.
This then developed into further study and I completed my diploma in Psychotherapy in April 2010.(I really enjoyed learning- and learning so much about myself too)

These skills blend in and contribute so much to my role as an OT in mental health!
(I feel so far removed from the OT I was before when I was losing morale and felt depleted.) I certainly feel rejeuvenated in my work and personal life now; because I move in different circles and have completely broadened my horizons.

Currently I am workling part-time in private practice as a Psychotherapist and a Coach (these roles share many similarities but can also be very different). I am also developing my skills as a trainer and doing team development sessions.

If you’d like a chat or to know more about the above or what I can offer you or your team please get in touch:
Mob: 07985 440014 Tel: 020 85920703

OT doing it differently: Catherine Beynon-Pindar

I met Jen in 2005 at the College of Occupational Therapists (COT) conference in Brighton. I had just finished my degree in occupational therapy and was excited by the future, passionate about occupational therapy and felt that the world was my oyster! I felt confident that I had made the right choice in my first job and indeed there were many advantages and opportunities within a private medium secure hospital but I felt stifled by 9-5 working that challenged the contextual dimensions of occupation. Suffice to say that by summer 2007 I was suffering from occupational alienation and looking to move to another post. But what did I want? I like Kipling’s six honest serving men and often put them into service (what, where, why, when, how and who). I worked out: Relationships and values are very important to me; I love working with women; I liked working with individuals with personality disorder but would settle for mental health. Rather than looking for what jobs were available I looked at the organisation first. What were their values? What was the mission statement? As a Quaker organisation, the values of The Retreat, York chimed with my own: equality and community, hope, care for our environment, courage, honesty and integrity. I rang to lodge an expression of interest in working for the organisation to be told “we are advertising next week for the therapeutic community”.

Having never heard of a Therapeutic Community (TC) before, I hit the Internet. It turned out that they were values based too! Rather than defining themselves by specific elements or methods, they share values which underline all aspects of the work. These ten ‘core values’ are translated into ‘core standards’ that are used to measure to what extent the TC ‘does what it says on the tin’. Through this process a TC can become accredited by the Community of Communities (part of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Centre for Quality Improvement). Fast forward three months and I had fallen in love. I already loved my profession, but it was the group interview that did it. 8 candidates, 6 staff members & 3 community members – turns out I love groups. I had also found a context that fit – a therapeutic community.

The Acorn Programme was the first TC to be accredited and accepts women with complex needs from all over the UK. These women predominantly meet the criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder and/or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, although increasingly we have referrals for individuals with Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly Multiple Personality Disorder) as well. The 12 month programme uses intensive psychological therapies, including group therapy and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), to empower the women who use the service in sharing responsibility for their recovery while containment is provided by staff in collaboration with them.

Although being fully aware that I was applying for a post as an integrated occupational therapist, the prospect was none the less daunting. I was concerned about staying true to the philosophy of occupational therapy while undertaking ‘generic’ tasks. As it turns out I am quite the weaver. Last year I presented a seminar at COT Conference on “Interweaving psychotherapeutic techniques in Occupational Therapy” as well as a poster on Mindfulness. This year it is a workshop on “It is not just sitting and breathing: a straightforward guide to mindfulness” and a facilitated poster, “Mourning the burnout: occupational disruption and Kübler-Ross”. I co-facilitate a psychotherapy group as well as being an individual DBT therapist, inpatient care co-ordinator and co-facilitator of the Graduate Group (for women who have successfully completed the programme). It happens that I can’t help but bring an occupational perspective to every aspect of Acorn.

However, having my dream job has a significant draw back…What next?

I haven’t yet found the answer as I love my clinical work. Having said that I want to teach and write and am always looking for opportunities to be involved in collaborations or teaching/assessing at universities. I am actively trying to network with others with similar interests; Therapeutic Communities, Mindfulness, Occupational Science, Trauma, Dissociative Identity Disorder, & Group work. Beyond that who knows what the next step of the dream may be.

If you would like to know more, network or have a general sharing of ideas, I am contactable on LinkedIn (there is only one of me) or by email


OT Doing it Differently: Jill Maglio
Jill founded Holistic Circus Therapy in 2005, which combines Occupational Therapy with circus arts to address the health and well-being needs of individuals and communities.

The benefits of combining circus and occupational therapy are numerous including its ability to increase coordination, body awareness, teamwork, problem solving, perseverance, fitness, strength, and the acquisition of life skills were various populations. When you start thinking about what is involved in activities like clowning, theatre games, acrobalance, yoga and balance based activities you can start to realize the depth and breadth and power of these activities!

Circus therapy benefits 1) emotional health – communication, confidence, empathy, expression, trust 2) physical health – body awareness, circulation, strength, tone, flexibility, balance, spatial awareness, sensory awareness 3) cognitive function – Circus works the brain! The varied activities, equipment and structured repetition help with concentration timing and rhythm, memory function, gross and fine motor control, sequencing and visual perceptual abilities 4) social health-healthy peer interaction, opportunities to teamwork and positive contribution.

Since starting HCT in 2005 Jill has developed programs in Australia Cambodia and North America and Jill’s work has been published in the Australian Journal of Occupational Therapy.

OT Doing it Differently: Liz Gow
“I qualified in Glasgow and in 2004 thought I had done my dash with OT, after nearly 10 years.  I was and am still in New Zealand.  I loved OT and it meant so much, so before giving away my Profession I felt I needed to be sure it was OT that was not working for me.  I saw an ad in the local paper about adult education classes and attended night school for 4 weeks.  The class was called Coaching for Change – Life Balance and Goal Setting Workshop.  I was hooked.
Since then I trained as a Results Coach in 2005 & 2006, Kaizen Muse Creativity Coaching in 2010 and a Muse Group Leader, ARTbundance Coach & Practitioner (Creativity Coaching) 2012, currently I am doing a Post Grad Diploma in Narrative Therapy and training to a Master Coach for Kaizen Muse Creativity Coaching.
I continued in OT and changed jobs to align more with my values and who I was.  I found myself in community rehab and here flourished.  I was and am still a Supervisor and used the coaching approach in everything I did and do.  What I realised what that I was not so balanced in terms of having fun, leisure time, socially, definitely not being creative in any way.  Coaching always seeks to explore what matters to you, believes in you.  I started to see some real changes in my practice and supervision.  I loved what was happening and wanted more.
Over the years I listened more to my passions, well discovered them really and started to follow what gave me pleasure, fun, joy.  Relationships all around developed for the better.  I was more daring and accepted opportunities that I may not have done before.  I slowly reduced my OT hours so that I could explore more with coaching.  This year I am 50 and feel as if I am just starting out and feel excited about where I am heading.
I now work for a few hours with the YWCA facilitating a girls group 11 – 13 year olds to increase self esteem, confidence, positive body image, communication etc creatively.  This was not even on the agenda in January of this year.  I love it.  I am studying counselling so I can use that, OT and creativity coaching to work with people who have disordered eating and/or eating difficulties, not working for the DHB but as a counsellor and I know I can use all of what I know.  I am also developing on line coaching packages to be launched in February 2013 and have 4 coaching packages that are being developed now in different aspects that involve group and one to one coaching.    I want to facilitate creative workshops for OT’s to utilize their creativity in practice, left and right brain working together.
Life is amazing and although I have finished working clinically as an OT in June of this year to study.  I loved my OT practice so much more when I did coaching.  I really encourage you to give coaching a go, whether you experience it or take Jen’s course.  I promise you will never be the same, it is so synonymous with OT and such an enabling approach for clients, peers, anyone.  Enjoy.

OT doing it Differently: Anna Stickley

After working as an OT in adult mental health for a number of years, I had the opportunity to manage a psychosocial project in Uganda. It had been one of my childhood dreams to live in a mud hut and do humanitarian work! (I still don’t know why)!

My experience in Uganda changed my perception of OT and what OTs can offer. I had the opportunity to design an create a psychosocial program focusing on the needs of children, their families and communities as a result of civil war. Even though this sounds like a huge challenge, I had a conviction that my OT training had prepared me well for it. I knew from my training and my own beliefs that it is so important to consider human beings holistically.

Back home in the UK and in the humanitarian sector in Uganda, so often people are put into “categories” or “problems” and a service only addresses part of the problem. I wanted to try to offer a holistic project, as much as possible. Next, I had the challenge of narrowing down how to address the multiple and complex psychological and social needs in the internally displaced community. Again from my OT training I knew that by listening to the person I am working with, truly understanding them and running with them in the direction they want to go, was the approach I needed to take. This meant putting aside my thoughts on what I thought should be done, so I and my team listened to the voices of the children, families and communities affected. We heard what they wanted to be able to do to be able to solve some of their own issues and challenges. Together, with the children, their families, various members of the community and my team came up with a project that addressed immediate physical, emotional, psychological and social needs through occupations and activities that were normal in their culture. As a team we all came up with long term sustainable strategies for dealing with the poverty that was the root of many of the psychosocial problems they faced.

It was only after my return to the UK that I discovered that the work we had done and the approach we had used was called ‘community-based rehabilitation’ (CBR). I was so moved by the impact OTs can make when they engage not only with individuals, but also with groups and communities to address immediate occupational needs as well as long-term preventative and occupation promoting behaviours. My realisation of this led me to discover that a similar approach was being developed in the UK through organisations called social enterprises. I discovered that through social enterprises in the UK, OT’s could work truly collaboratively with the individuals and communities they are working in, to contribute to solving a social problem. This then led me to engage in a PhD to research OT practice in social enterprises in the UK, which I am doing now at the University of Northampton. My study has made me realise that there are various types of social enterprises ranging from community owned initiatives, to NHS “spin-offs” which are completely different! The phrase “social enterprise” has become a really political term because of the Government’s plans to out-source the NHS. However, I am determined not to lose sight of the fact that OT’s can be a part of creating social change through genuine collaboration with those we work with, to design and create the type of organisations we want to run to deliver the type of OT that we know we were trained to do. I’ve met some really inspiring OT’s who have taken the plunge and set up their own social enterprises and it’s great to see them functioning to their full potential, using all their OT skills and not having to fit into a box of a medical category or a service.

OTs Doing it Differently: Karen Davies

Karen Davies is an Occupational Therapist, with a special interest in helping people to return to some kind of occupation. She has worked mostly in mental health. She has also worked with unemployed people, helping them to regain confidence and find a place in their community where they can use their skills.

The Condition Management Programme project, where she had been working, was closed and 60 health professionals had to find alternative employment. Karen used some of her redundancy money and went to train in the USA with Richard Bolles, author of ‘What Color Is Your Parachute?’, and now has the backing of Richard Bolles to present his materials.

Karen now runs ‘Parachute’ training courses where professionals or life coaches come to a training day to understand the method, so that they can use it with their clients. She also offers group and individual work with clients who are looking to find their vocation to change career or find a job.

The ‘Parachute’ approach helps people to find their vocation, by a series of exercises to enable people to identify their skills, values and beliefs. This enables them to know themselves better and hone their vocational aspirations. The approach focuses on the left brain and enabling people to consider the possibilities they might not have previously considered. This, Bolles believes, is essential before embarking on the job hunt.

The approach Karen uses is person centred, and enabling, and creative. She is able to use her skills of motivational interviewing and solution focussed therapy. Karen keeps up her registration and continuing professional development by working as a locum OT in the NHS, most recently working in a Brain Injury service and mental health teams.

Discovering Vocation website: Discovering Vocation email: phone: 07779935067

OTs Doing it Differently: Rachel Jenkins
From university to independent practice – in at the deep end

Armed with my first class Bsc(Hons) in occupational therapy I thought the job market would open up before me without too much effort. How wrong I was. Firstly there were no jobs. Secondly, my grade counted for little when competing against people with years of experience. As a mature student I have had my share of job interviews over the years but it still shocked me that I couldn’t even get to interview stage for posts I was applying for. However, my university (UWE) had anticipated the need for us to be more creative with our skill set and prepared us to carve our own careers outside of the NHS. But where to start?

I decided to concentrate on charities that I had an interest in and write some speculative applications. After trawling the internet I came across a new charity called Bluebell Nurses, based in Bristol. They support mums with anti/postnatal depression. This was a subject close to my heart as I had experienced postnatal depression with both of my children. I emailed the charity asking if they were looking to use occupational therapists as part of their work. Not expecting to get a reply I then forgot about the email until I received a reply – 2 months later. They were interested in meeting me for a “chat” and to investigate possibilities for my role.

The Bluebell Nurses were about to embark on a group support programme in conjunction with the Teenage Parents Project(TPP) in Withywood. Ironically, I had identified the TPP as a potential new opening for occupational therapy services as part of a final year unit on role emerging fields. Armed with my research notes from this unit I was able to meet with Bluebell Nurses and present a clear picture of how I could support young mums with postnatal depression. Due to the training in presentation skills that my course had provided I was able to convince them that not only could I contribute to the content of the programme but I could also lead the group.

So here I am today – literally thrown in at the deep end. I am running the programme on a sessional fee basis and the feedback so far has been positive. Although I am currently working in isolation from other occupational therapists I have made contact with professionals in a similar field with a view to arranging supervision and possibly mentoring. It’s not how I imagined my first job to be but the freedom and flexibility to design and implement a programme without the red tape and hierarchy associated with the NHS has felt wonderful. I am learning to ask when I need help but also put my trust in my own abilities. My training has provided me with the skills to reflect, analyse and critically appraise what I am doing so I have never felt out of my depth. It is refreshing to have my occupational viewpoint respected and although the work is only part time at present, the charity is new and interest in the service is increasing daily – so who knows where it will lead?