This picture was chosen to illustrate today’s post as one of the best known models of occupational therapy, the Kawa Model, compares our life to a river. The part of my own life journey as an occupational therapist began in my early thirties. I was then successful in my first career as a tax manager in a big accountancy firm. Yet I was unhappy in my job. I remember looking out of the window of my glass office and thinking that there had to be more to life than doing something that wasn’t a good fit with my values and interests.
I’d always appreciated the value of activity. In fact, at that time, I was already using some of the principles of occupational therapy before I had any knowledge of the profession and its theoretical bedrock. At my suggestion a similarly hacked off colleague and I made sure that we did something pleasurable each morning before we came to work. This was to counteract the tedium that we experienced whilst we were doing our jobs. I ran, made things and cooked before I set out to the office. My friend was a keen sports pistol shooter in the days before the Dunblane killing put pay to the pastime that he found strangely calming. He made bullets before work and incidentally went into a deep depression when he was denied the right by law to continue his hobby. When I came to research what I could do as a second career I was guided to occupational therapy by a schoolfriend in the profession. As I read about the philosophy of occupation, activity with personal meaning, I realised that it was already part and parcel of my psyche and remains so until this day.
Occupation is the thread with which I work in my job in a mental health team. I’m always learning something new. I look at the fabric of a person’s life in terms of what they need and want to do. It’s unique for every individual which makes my job so fascinating. I guide them to look for the meaning in their activity and use it to mend physical and mental health conditions. Sometimes the weave is stronger after the repair. Everyone is different so what works for one person may be an anathema to another. I see my own personal occupations as essential to my wellbeing too; sea swimming, hiking, craftwork, writing, travels in my motorhome, meditation, spending time with those who are dear to me…..Sometimes the healthy benefits are clear as day, at other times more obscure.
I continue to work in an NHS that is very different to when I first started there at the turn of the 21st century. When I made the choice to change career my prospects for promotion looked excellent. However I’ve stayed in the same job for nearly fifteen years as progression through clinical grades, an area of work that I love, is now as rare as rocking horse droppings. If someone had told me way back that I would remain at the same grade for such a long time it’s unlikely that I would have considered this profession. I was an ambitious go-getter in those days. It may be surprising to learn then, that I’ve never regretted the decision.