Thinking OT

Thoughts from Harrison Training and the occupational therapy world

Posts Tagged ‘OT Postgrad

What Does Leadership in OT Mean?

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In an earlier article I wrote a review of other OT blogs that we, here, at Harrison Training read. 

One of my favourites is the Salford University OT Educational blog.  The blog works becasue it expands diverse thoughts into debates.  A great example is this article on a recent leadership event the University hosted.

The author, Heather, concludes that

“occupational therapists need to be encouraged to lead but that they should have greater awareness of the types of challenge they face in the NHS and Social Care so that they lead consciously and effectively overcoming professional and gender discrimination.”

The discussion, and debate grows within the comments attached to that blog and please do go and read them and contribute.

The challenge that is presented is trying to understand just what leadership means in an OT context?  What elements of leadership, if any, are relevant to NHS and Social Care in particular?

Indeed, what are we talking about when we talk about leadership?

Leadership is not something that only those in charge require.  We all display elements of leadership characteristics in various aspects of our life –  it would seem very difficult to have a successful therapeutic relationship without having a degree of leadership.  How can we, as a profession, further identify and refine those skills to benefit our clients, employers and also enable us to work in ways which are truer to ourselves?

I recommended, in my response to the original post, two books.

The first is “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey.  It is perhaps the book on leadership from within the individual. 

The second book I would recommend is “Self Coaching Leadership” by Angus McLeod.  This is a much slimmer and lighter introduction to the concept of leadership, but no less potent for it.

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Creative Writing As A Therapeutic Intervention – An Introduction

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Picture accredited with thanks, to Pingu1963 Flickr Creative Commons

Earlier posts have started to touch upon the idea of art as a vehicle for therapeutic intervention.

Writing can work as such an intervention, bringing many benefits to clients such as;

  • Creating and expressing meaning
  • Developing ideas
  • Experimenting with new perspectives
  • Self esteem
  • Building trust within a group through sharing writing.

There are many more advantages but the above illustrate a few of the areas where profound change can be seen.

When we write, and particularly if we are writing a creative or fictional piece, then we give ourselves room in which we can say whatever we want.  Much writing is thought to be semi-autobiographical.  That is no bad thing for our purposes.  By encouraging and enabling creative writing we can create an outlet for clients to explore ideas or emotions that they might otherwise not feel able to.

Perhaps a client is anxious about causing offence, or revisiting an area that has been addressed many times before.  By creating and developing characters within a creative piece  the client can then explore and work through ideas using those characters as the protagonists.  There is no reason why a client could not set up dissenting perspectives between two characters within the one story.

The self-esteem that can be derived from having created a piece of writing is incredibly rewarding.  Don’t believe me?  Try it.

Furthermore by carefully encouraging authors to read out, or otherwise share, their writing, it will be possible to see trust grow within groups.

I have already touched upon the core need for us all to be able to create and express meaning in our lives here.  Creative writing is such an obvious way to do so that it is easily overlooked.  Many of us, for example, will not have done any creative writing since leaving school.  Perhaps we ourselves should take up creative writing and not just leave it in the intervention tool box.

As an aside there is an element of storytelling theory that states that communication works on two planes, namely the plane of experience and the plane of meaning.

The former is our collection of perceptions and experiences.  This shapes how we communicate what has happened, or is happening, to us – essentially how we tell the story.

How we tell the story, namely the meaning that we give to it, can reflect back and retrospectively shape the plane of experience.

Let me give you an example.

A mother, let’s call her Alice, overhears another couple of mothers gossipping about Alice and her sick young child.  She overhears them talking about her, how she is not coping and needs help. They do not know that Alice is stood nearby and can overhear all that they say.  Alice is furious that these other parents have nothing better to do than talk about her and her son.  She goes home, distressed, and recounts the situation to her husband who, subsequently shares her indignation and anger.  He resolves to sort this out right away…

Here the experience has shaped the story-telling.  The experience is then passed on and shared.

Now, let’s try that again, with the same events, but with different meanings attributed to them.

A mother, let’s call her Alice, hears a couple of other mothers talking about her and everything that she does for her sick child.  Between them they are trying to think if there is anything that they can do to help lighten the load, for a short while at least.  They do not know that Alice is stood nearby.  Alice is surprised that other parents had realised just how much extra she had to do in caring for Joel and is touched, even a little embarrassed, that they should find her efforts as a mother to be remarkable.  She goes home, feeling emotional and confides in her husband…

Here the meaning that has been attributed to the same events is radically changed within the retelling.  As a result, the story telling has totally changed the experience not only for the listener or reader, but for the story teller as well.

If you are attending the Creative Writing as a Therapeutic Intervention course on 10th February then please let us know how you feel you might be able to implement these approaches in your work.

If you are already working with writing, whether journalling, or creative writing, then again please let us know what your experiences are.

Neil Denny