Monday, 1 February 2010
A rose by any other name........
I have recently been involved in a brief yet relevant discussion on Facebook with OT colleagues around the world on our title "Occupational Therapist" and whether this reflects our role.
Since I qualified as an occupational therapist in the early 1980's there has been much debate over our title "occupational therapist" Throughout the decades there have been letters and articles within relevant publications each suggesting either a title change or a shift in practice to reflect the title we hold.
In 1983 BJOT received a number of letters in support of a poll for name change - with suggestions of Ergotherapist and Parotherapist being top of the list.
Gilfoyle's Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture (1984) clearly states the importance of defining and underpinning the profession with clear, unifying system of values that encompasses both historical and current concepts of the role and if this happened then a name change would not be necessary. At that time the profession was undergoing a paradigm shift - certainly within the UK. Moving from a diploma to degree training programme, the upsurge of models of practice and other evidence-based practices were developing and the title Occupational Therapist became a protected title
In 1997, Greg Kelly looked at the common themes of the BJOT over the previous 6o years, and title change was one of these themes.
In 2000, Catherine Moor in Therapy Weekly suggested a name change for the millenium. Her opinion was based on the fact that our main goal was one of rehabilitation using activity in achieving our client's goals and not "merely occupation" . Following on from the changes of the previous two decades Moor suggested that a name change to Rehab Therapist ( a suggestion first made by Elizabeth Cracknell in 1970 as Rehab Officer) might achieve greater understanding of our role. Letters flooded in over the next few issues, some in support, believing that a name change would stop the need for us to explain and define our role and offering also Ergo therapist, Independence therapist and Activity therapist to name a few. One letter from a Speech and Language Therapist strongly urged us not to change - her experience of their title change (to add the "Language" tag) was "more trouble than it's worth".
The essence of most of the responses was very much about occupational therapists embracing the term "occupational" and that those not addressing the needs of occupational beings should not be calling themselves occupational therapists. "The only way we can hope to be understood is by doing occupational therapy and being occupational therapists" (Matthew Molineaux response July 20th 2000 Therapy Weekly)
In 2001 again BJOT ran an article by Perrin (2001) Don't despise the fluffy bunny: a reflection from practice where she talks about occupational therapists having lost the art of fostering creativity and talks of a new Activity Therapist role at NVQ level to fulfil this need. Letters of response both for and against included the suggestion of Ability Therapists as a title change.
In the past couple of decades, there has been a strong professional shift towards the use of occupation in many areas of the profession - although not all. Many of the UK undergraduate programmes now have this at the core of their programmes and much time is spent defining and analysing how we use occupation within our diverse roles.
So it is interesting that what seems to be beginning is a questioning now of the term "therapist" within our title. Claire started the discussion off and my response was in agreement with her to look at the term "therapist"
Many people we work with here in the UK and our potential future clients (given the push to third sector working) do not see themselves as needing a therapist. Before our final year students go on role emerging placements we have to get them to practice how to explain their role without using words such as "help, better and problem ". Many people they engage with do not see that they need "therapy" or that there is something wrong or dysfunctional that needs therapy to occur. Instead we get the students to think about words such as "facilitate", "quality of life", "engage" "roles" etc.
Bronnie thinks it accurately describes what she does, and that it's a positive way to describe the process of working with someone
Anita Hamilton response is "Let's just keep doing a good job, telling people what occupation is and what amazing therapy it is for the heart, the mind, the should, the body, the spirit, families, communities and whole darn populations... just keep doing it!"
I open the debate to you here - any ideas?