Thinking OT

Thoughts from Harrison Training and the occupational therapy world

She Said What?

with 2 comments

In a review of other OT bodies online material I found this remarkable quote from Octavia Hill, held up by the British Association of Occupational Therapists as being one of the founders or precursors to the occupational therapy movement;

“‘The poor should never be denied beauty, simply through accident of birth.’

I guess that you could get away with saying things like that in the 19th Century.

The comment sounds offensive to modern ears. 

There is a degree of pitying within it, of almost cloying paternalism.

The labelling of “The poor” calls in all manner of judgments and relative positions on the part not only of Octavia Hill – presumably not one of the poor – and those people she was referring to, but also of the listener. 

These words set me thinking about how the language we use shapes our relationships with those we come into contact with. 

There is something of a chicken and egg situation here.  Did Octavia Hill’s comments shape the nature of her relationship with her clients, or did the language reflect her pre-existing perception of them?

I suggest that there is a two-way stream here.

The ways in which we perceive our colleagues and clients may well be subconscious.  That in turn drives our choice of words, but the words we use reinforce the perception.  There is a lot of work in the filed of narrative theory that looks at this area that I may well write about later to explore how such thinking can help us within our work. 

The debate about political correctness rages on.  I do not think I am talking about that here, although some comments may disagree.  I am simply interested in how aware and reflective we are about our patterns of communication and how that communication might impact and block the work that we and our clients are trying to do.

In my next post I will revisit the quote above to consider this thing called beauty and what that might mean to an occuaptional therapist and her/his clients.

Neil Denny

Written by harrisontraining

February 4, 2010 at 10:06 am

2 Responses

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  1. […] a comment » In my first post I commented on the BAOT quote from Octavia Hill which […]

  2. […] a comment » In my first post I commented on the BAOT quote from Octavia Hill which […]


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