However I wouldn’t be at this point in my life without having been an Occupational Therapist. My initial career choice was to be a teacher but at that time teacher jobs were scarce so I looked into Speech Therapy, Physiotherapy, Nursery nursing and Occupational Therapy (OT). A visit to an OT department in Cardiff showed my how OT’s made a significant difference to the quality of someone’s life regardless of disability or illness.
After qualifying at St Loyes school of Occupational Therapy in Exeter I worked in a rotational post in Yeovil where I did older adults, medical and mental health. It was always mental health that I wanted to work in, after having a superb student placement at a day hospital in Plymouth. I felt there was less hierarchy within such a setting and that you were never working with a diagnosis but with the whole person. I loved that OT focused on how people looked after their personal care, how they engaged with others socially, how people functioned at work and whether the relationships in their lives were supportive.
From Yeovil I worked in Lymington, in the New Forest, and ran a psychiatric day hospital. I facilitated workshops and groups as well as 1:1 therapy. I’ve always loved running workshops and groups and helping people learn new ways of coping and develop skills that enhanced their lives.
After 3 years there I decided that I needed a challenge and went off to work in New Zealand where I was a Charge OT for a psychiatric hospital on the west coast of the South Island. I loved New Zealand, the people were friendly and welcoming and as I played sport I fitted in really well. I ran an OT unit along with an industrial therapy unit as well as doing some work with the drug and alcohol services. It was here that I came across Neuro- linguistic programming (NLP) and started doing more individual therapies.
I came back from New Zealand and got a job in Barnstaple with older people’s mental health. Here I set up a day hospital, ran groups around reminiscence therapy and did community work. I moved then into the community, working with adults of working age and continued to run groups but also work with people who had conditions ranging from depression to schizophrenia.
From the beginning of my career I have loved having OT students and over the years have tutored many students who are now continuing the profession of Occupational Therapy.
For the last 5 years I have been working in the Assessment Team in the community, recognising that the first point of contact is so vital to someone’s engagement within services. Since 2005 I have had Red Oak Coaching and have brought into it many aspects of Occupational Therapy, skills and experiences that I have gathered over the years.
So what have I learnt in my career?
- That humanity always comes first regardless of systems and targets.
- That myself as a person is more important than the therapy itself, as people engage with people.
- Not to worry about things until it happens.
- Always have a well-balanced life and look after yourself in order to be able to work to the best of your abilities.
I have been incredibly lucky in my career having got the jobs I wanted and moved around the world. Occupational Therapy has given me stability yet growth and development and it is now time to continue with this but in a way that gives me flexibility and the opportunity to offer a truly holistic approach.