Occupational Therapy Week 2017 #ValueOfOT #OTWeek2017

This year for OT Week, we at Headway East London decided it would be a great opportunity to hear from Laura J, one of our incredible OTs at HEL, and ask her about her experience as an OT.  

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"Here it's not a therapeutic environment it's a community, so it's not about practicing how to cook, people are actually doing it, that's the big difference."  


Hi Laura, so for people who don't know, what exactly is an OT?  

It's really hard to try and sum it up actually...I work with all sorts of people who
experience different disabilities and illnesses, particularly empowering them to
become more independent and live a fulfilling life doing things that are meaningful
to them. We look at self-care, productivity and leisure. So from basic things like
going to the toilet, washing and dressing, to dealing with domestic things like
cleaning. We look at people who want to go back to work; either they need to relearn
skills or the job itself - or the environment can be adapted for them. We establish
what people want to do, and see how we can develop their skills or compensate
for difficulties by learning how to do things differently. We are occupational beings,
you know, who we are is what we do. A lot of people with brain injuries have really
lost a big part of their identity, so the amazing thing about HEL and the occupational
work we do here is that people really get to regain their sense of self.

Why is Headway special compared to other places you've worked?  

A lot of the time, having a therapeutic relationship with someone means you
experiment: you're practicing cooking, you're trialing things. But here it's not a
therapeutic environment it's a community, so it's not about practicing how to cook,
people are actually doing it, that's the big difference. The role of an OT here is
really different because there’re just so many opportunities for people. In my role
during the Day Service, if there's anyone who's facing a barrier with being involved,
if they're struggling to find their place, I work with them to find out their interests
and how to get them involved and then incorporate that into what's already going
on here. I also run an upper limb group and co-facilitate the memory group with a

What do you find to be the most rewarding part of the job?  

The most rewarding thing is doing my peer led memory group and seeing how
confident members felt afterwards and hearing people's stories. Often in the Day
Service people are joyful and don't speak about their injuries but the memory group
is a place for people to open up. People have come up with great ideas of how to
help them remember things! You could hear some quite emotional stories but also
hear about the amazing resilience these people have, so that's really rewarding. 

What kind of qualities do you think, make a good OT?  

Being able to understand that people's values might be different from your own. A
lot of OTs might think everybody wants to be independent, but actually you know,
people might want to spend their time and energy doing something like art not just
the basics like getting dressed. And being a good communicator. 

Last question, as it's Occupational Therapy Week, what do you want people to know about occupational therapy that they might not already?  

That it's a very fulfilling job. It's really practical. We look at people as a whole, their
physical and mental wellbeing, and how these all interact with how they participate
in their daily lives.