Updated: Jul 29
In Sept 19 I presented at my first ever national conference. I was so excited! The conference was for occupational therapists that worked in diverse settings. Diverse settings means that we are not in employment that would usually have occupational therapists or we do not have the job title but we are still using our skills so are able to stay registered with the Health Care Professions Council - Like I am.
My presentation will soon be up on the conference website but as I tend to use mainly images in the actual power points and then just talk to socks off anyone who will listen you will not get the full content. To summarise I discussed my own fitness journey and then reflected on how I use the skills of a therapist as a trainer.
Related blog: What was my turning point to getting fit.
During this process of reflection I encouraged the participants to
1) Think about how, as health professional that they have supportive conversations about being physically active. I have a lot to say on this subject as I strongly feel that health promotion messages, as well intended as they are, don't work as they tap into shame or disengage the person as it doesn't feel meaningful. I will be sharing my guidance on this soon on my resources page.
2) Start using the language of occupational therapy and promote it as a valuable skill that can make a significant difference to people. As I talked about this I realised that I am guilty of this myself. If I say to someone that I am a personal trainer they feel that they know what I can offer them and that it will be worth paying money for the benefits that this could bring. When I talk about being a occupational therapist, people tend to only know the type they may have come across in the NHS. Within the NHS the roles are so varied. When I first qualified I spent my first 6 months assessing if people could sit and stand off a toilet, give them a piece of a equipment if they needed adaptions to make it easier, then discharge them off the ward, I would probably see each person for a maximum of 30 minutes. Within my last traditional NHS job, I could work with individuals for years. I was managing the OT department of a secure psychiatric hospital, assessing risk, leading on education and employment across a network of hospitals and having a caseload giving therapy to men who were in the intensive care unit due to the impact their mental health (usually psychosis) was having. Over the years I had roles in physical rehabilitation, learning disabilities, dementia, mental health. Occupational Therapists are dual trained in physical and mental health.
The Royal College of Occupational Therapy defines my profession as
Occupational therapy provides practical support to empower people to facilitate recovery and overcome barriers preventing them from doing the activities (or occupations) that matter to them. This support increases people's independence and satisfaction in all aspects of life.
I find it odd that I can sing about being a personal trainer yet in reality those qualifications, part time whilst working, took one year to gain. Whilst the skills I developed over a 3 year bachelor of science degree, a couple of post grad courses, and nearly 20 years of experience seem harder for me to promote.
I like to think of it as understanding a persons strengths and difficulties to get you to do the things you want to do to have the life you want to lead.
So I have made a commitment to myself that I am going to be explicit about the value these skills can bring.
When I provide a 1;1 session I will be drawing on years of reading, studying and working with people to draw from an evidence base. I have a range of assessments I can use from both professionals to find out where my clients are so that we can work out how to achieve the goals. I will then be using this knowledge to work with my clients for them to achieve their goals and to give them the strategies so that they don't need me anymore. No one wants to have therapy any longer than is need and very few people I have met have the money to have personal training longer than is necessary . This business model may be slightly flawed from a financial point of view. I will be there when I am needed but it is so important to me for people to be living their best lives and to be skilled and autonomous in doing this.
Sarah is an Occupational Therapist and personal trainer who is passionate about helping people flourish @MoodLifterPT