Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely our own and not necessarily those of our employer or any other occupational therapist.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

On Occupational Balance and blogging out of my comfort zone .....

Over the Easter holidays I was reading an article in the Radio Times written by Nick Baines (Bishop of Croyden) about why he is a "blogger". Something he wrote really touched a nerve within me and made me think about how I blog and what I gain from blogging:

" The blogosphere isn't for the faint-hearted. But what's the point in simply talking to those who agree with you, when you could be arguing your way to a better understanding....".

Hmm, on reflection my online networking has become rather comfortable, interacting through blogs and facebook usually with peers who have a similar view to my own, and possibly students of occupational therapy who may be too polite to disagree given their perception of the power imbalance between lecturer and student.

Whilst I was pondering this situation a coincidental status update by my colleague Sarah Bodell yesterday has created much discussion amongst the international occupational therapy community today and I would like to share some of that here and maybe offer some counter-argument to take things out of my own comfort zone.

The status update asked if the term "Occupational Balance" was an over-simplified euphemism. This has led to comments that can be summarised as follows: (apologies for not attributing the comments to the original source - but until I can ask each one for consent to identify them then I need to respect privacy rules of netiquette- please let me know if you wish to be identified and I will happily insert you!).

  • Is there evidence that occupational balance is/should be a universal aspirational state? I guess we need to consider what we mean by "balance". Traditionally one might imagine a set of scales and balance being achieved when all components register the same (as in equal amounts of work, rest and play?). However, Fearing (2001) summarises that balance should not be viewed in this way but rather as "the kind of balance that comes from being centred so that we act from a stable base.
  • As occupational therapists, if we are presented with someone experiencing occupational imbalance should we automatically assume that they are not healthy or are at risk of being unhealthy? This generated discussion on the perception of client-centredness. Some would view that occupational therapists were obligated to allow people to make their own choices - whether these could be perceived as healthy or unhealthy.
  • would a life of occupational balance stifle? "imbalance makes life interesting"
For me, one of the fundamental issues of occupational balance (OB) is choice. My OB depends on 2 things - opportunity and ability and operates under the umbrella of time.

Opportunity includes:
  • Political, legal, social and cultural climate in which I live/work
  • Environment (human and non human)
  • Financial
Ability includes:
  • physical and psychological ability
  • knowledge and understanding
The concept of time is the umbrella under which all these components sit.

So for example, today I may feel that my work is taking priority over my personal life (I am not alone in that - this is an interesting link to how we may change our view our priorities). I prioritise my work at this time as I am motivated and interested to do so and am driven by deadlines that I choose to keep (and I need to retain employment!). Tomorrow it may become imperative to prioritise other areas of occupation (family committment, social engagements etc). I can do this because I have opportunity and ability to make this happen (usually) and when I complain of "stress" through imbalance it is usually temporary.

I may live in an environment that for whatever reason doesnot allow me such choices, or I may never have gained the skills/knowledge to understand or engage in making such choices. As an occupational therapist working with somone in this situation I would work with the individual in gaining knowledge/skills or enabling them to adapt themselves and/or the environment to ensure that their individual, yet realistic, goals were attained.

So, I guess what I am saying - in a round about way - is that in my view the concept of Occupational Balance should not be a universal aspirational state - but in fact the idea of balance (or as Fearing states "a stable base") is both individual and time bound.

Further research may be required. I am now officially out of my comfort zone and await the challenge with a certain amount of anticipation. As Nick Baines says " this is the first word in a conversation, not the final word of judgement." Anyone is free to argue with me, question me and disagree with me. Over to you.......................