OT Week – A Reflection From an Occupational Therapist
Occupational Therapy Week is an excellent time for our amazing OTs to take a moment and recognise the outcomes and impact of the work they do for their clients on a daily basis. Hear from one of our Lead Occupational Therapists, Allan Spinks, as he took some time to share and reflect with the Therapy Pro team below.
For me, the whole point of Occupational Therapy is focusing on what somebody’s core meaningful occupations are – or as I put it with some of my clients, “what’s the reason you get up and what makes it worth being alive?” For all the non-Occupational Therapists, this OT Week is an opportunity for you to reflect on that question.
What are your core meaningful occupations, and have you been making sure you give yourself enough time to do them lately?
For my own reflection, I took a moment to consider my work with a Therapy Pro client over the last 18 months. She’s a mother of 5 children (all with their own disabilities) who has received NDIS funding for psychosocial disability. After going through some awful things as a child, she struggles managing her own wellbeing and lives with significant anxiety. For her, the reason she gets out of bed, and what makes it worth being alive, is being a mother. Her core values are around play, fun, being a bit silly just because, making a big mess in the process of learning, and being there for her children when they need her.
At referral, it was clear she was not living her values and core meaningful occupations. She was sleeping between 1-3 hours per night (sometimes after just collapsing and sleeping on the closest bit of free space on the floor), skipping meals, having panic attacks, dissociating, finding herself irritable, finding herself only focused on what was on her list next. My client felt like she was moving from one task to another without actually being present for her children.
When I first started visiting their home for our sessions, I was met by an exhausted looking woman who would tell me she simply couldn’t do this anymore. The house was quiet, even with all the kids home, and there were signs of lots of jobs intended to be finished, but never quite done.
Some things we focused on putting in place slowly over the coming months included:
- Sitting down with her children for at least 10 minutes and not focusing on getting a task done
- Putting in a schedule of meals that were simple and easy to cook
- Eating meals together at the table
- Taking a pause and finding time to do something nice with her kids, rather than rushing to get the next thing done
- Playing music in the house instead of sitting in front of the TV
In the midst of this process, my client and her husband had a major breakdown in their relationship after she stood up for her children against their verbally abusive father. While this might be a set-back for some, my client reported that she felt proud of herself for standing up to him and was only disappointed she didn’t do it sooner.
Since this change in the household environment, we continued our work, and my client reported that she was sleeping more, even though she felt busier, she still had more energy. The children were not only coping at school, but they were receiving awards and speaking in front of crowds. This was something that other parents at the school took note of and even told her she looked “more alive” without hearing what had been happening. She was also eating regularly and her kids were helping her with cooking and cleaning tasks.
She was even finding time to read and go swimming at the local pool occasionally.
There are three major moments my client noted as significant for her. One, was that her daughter had finished an appointment early and instead of rushing home to do another load of washing, she stopped herself and they sat and had afternoon tea together before going home. Her daughter brought this up for weeks afterwards, and even told all her friends about it.
Secondly, instead of putting the TV on to get her kids to be more settled, she put music on in the evenings and found herself dancing, singing, and playing with her kids as she got her jobs done. Now, her kids will ask to put music on instead of TV.
Finally, she was at the playground with her youngest son and instead of thinking, “Hurry up I need to get home to do xyz task” she noticed herself simply playing and laughing with him.
Now, when I visit my client, the house is often filled with blanket forts, hand drawn pictures on the table and I’m met with a smile when I arrive. I walk in and often smell their dinner cooking away and see a house that’s being well-managed. Instead of telling me about how much she’s struggling, she will tell me how well the children are doing, and all of the things she’s done with them since the last time I saw her. When the kids are home, I hear laughter and see them running around playing together.
The house can be quite noisy, but we have reflected on this together… Shouldn’t a house of 5 kids be exactly that sometimes?
The above story is an excellent reminder for myself of one of the many reasons why I get up in the morning and why I love being an Occupational Therapist. It’s also an excellent reflection to share regarding how important those core meaningful occupations really are. My client went from being in a relationship and caring for 5 kids to a single mother of 5 kids, yet she stated it is, “The most alive and happy I’ve been in years”. I am very proud of the progress she has made and role I have played along the way. I look forward to continuing to try and help her as we continue our work together and reflecting on all the amazing things she’s done.
Thank you to all the wonderful Occupational Therapists, and a special thank you to our OTs at Therapy Pro this OT Week!
About the Author
Allan is a Lead Occupational Therapist at Therapy Pro. Allan is an OTA endorsed mental health clinician and has been working with Therapy Pro since 2018. Allan is all about hope and making the best of what we have in life. To learn more about Allan, visit his profile here.