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

Saturday, 27 October 2012

OccuBuzz and World Occupational Therapy Day

Today is World Occupational Therapy Day - all around the globe occupational therapists are engaging in activity to promote the importance of occupational balance, engagement and performance to individual and community health and wellbeing and celebrating our profession.

Here at University of Salford, as part of the celebrations, we are officially launching our newly developed app: Occubuzz. Some of you may have had a sneak preview already via OT News and WFOT.

 “OccuBuzz” is a light hearted app that draws on the concept that what we do affects how we feel (Wilcock 2005), and that by encouraging occupational balance  - the right amount of occupation and the right variation between occupations (Wagman et al 2012) we can work towards achieving the subjective experience of eudaimonic wellbeing (Hayward and Taylor 2011). This fun app is intended to get people talking and thinking about what they do and how it makes them feel.  We hope that it will provide people with some suggestions as to how to achieve occupational balance, and to highlight the potential benefit of occupational therapy for those who are unable to be their own therapist.

The app contains 7 questions that ask you to identify how you feel about the things you have to, need to or want to do in your weekly routine. A quick press of a button will provide you with feedback and will identify if you may be experiencing occupational balance, occupational deprivation or occupational overload. If the news is bad, the app then has a 'help me' button, and offers tips and links to improve wellbeing that are that are based on occupational therapy philosophy and principles.

The app is not aimed at occupational therapists, but at the general public. We would like to see the concept of occupational balance seep into public consciousness, and to highlight the steps a person can take to influence their own wellbeing through what they do. We believe that many people can be their own occupational therapist and in this way occupational therapy can be “defined by those who may benefit from it, not its practitioners” (Hayward & Taylor 2011 p 137). This is not to say the occupational therapist is redundant. Some people will be unable to overcome their challenges without specialist help, and the app contains links to the World Federation of Occupational Therapists for those who want to find out more about us.

This app isn't perfect of course. We acknowledge that occupational balance and participation in occupation are complex concepts; values and culture for example, influence occupational choices and these have not been given full consideration in this version of the app. The app is a work in progress.  It is intended that a fuller version will be developed on the basis of feedback from this one and so we welcome your help in sharing the app, and in making it better by collecting feedback and telling us about it.  

OccuBuzz  and can be found using this link http://www.occubuzz.com/

It can be accessed using smartphone, computer, or other mobile devices.

Hayward C, Taylor J (2011) Eudaimonic Well-being: Its Importance and Relevance to Occupational Therapy for Humanity Occ Ther. Int 18(2011) 133-141 Wagman P, Hakansson C, Bjorklund A (2012) Occupational balance as used in occupational therapy: A concept analysis Scandanavian Journal of OT 19: 322-327 Wilcock A A (2005) Occupational Science: Bridging occupation and health CJOT Vol 72 Number 1 5-12

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Occupation, singing and Gareth Malone

Over the last few weeks I have watched, enraptured, as Gareth Malone creates a choir out of disparate individuals - this series he's working with people in their place of work. Over the last few years I have never missed a series, from working with school children, residents of a housing estate and, perhaps more well known is Gareth's work with the military wives choir. All absolutely spell-binding and a "feel good" factor ending.

All this time, myself and colleagues have been heartened and amazed at the success of his projects and often commented that, by using the occupation of singing he could be said to be facilitating the well being of each individual in his choir. Maybe he is enabling them to be their own occupational therapist?

In a rather timely coincidence, whilst I was thinking about this concept, (and trying to think how we could contact Gareth to put our ideas to him and see whether he had ever considered aspects of occupational science and occupational therapy principles) Dr Jackie Taylor ran our first online CPD Masterclass entitled: Essential Occupational Science: Putting Occupation back into Occupational Therapy. 
An extremely successful and well attended event that over the course of 90 minutes enabled the participants to consider many aspects of occupational science and its links in informing  the underlying principles of occupational therapy. With strands of well being and identity threaded through the session, Dr Taylor asked participants to consider the underlying meanings attributed to our occupations, social meaning, occupational integrity, co-occupations and much, much more, ending by  reflecting on Whiteford's (2004) suggestion that as occupational therapists we stop trying to define our role, but instead define the underlying perspectives of health and the relationship between health and wellbeing and how, as occupational therapists, we work with that.

Fantastic session Jackie, here's to the next online Masterclass on Change Management  delivered by Heather Davidson- see here for more details about the session.

So, back to Gareth............
In watching the latest series I have watched him form a choir in an NHS Trust, a Royal Mail Depot and an airport. An interview with Gareth on the BBC website clearly demonstrates Gareth's beliefs in the importance of singing and of choirs to an individual's confidence, the positive impact on state of mind in addition to the health benefits of posture, breathing etc. He also acknowledges the benefits of a choir in terms of camaraderie and beating fears of isolation.

But it is much more than that.

In the NHS Trust the choir broke down barriers of hierarchy and gave all staff a feeling of belonging to the whole organisation rather than sticking to 'mixing with their own level'. What was interesting, I think, was that Gareth found it hard to get the choir to display an emotional attachment to their singing. Reflecting possibly the fact that the culture in this environment was one of " professional detachment" in order to deal with the rigours and stresses of day to day situations in their working life? This perhaps has resonance with the issue of cultural attitude and how this can impact on ability to engage in occupation. If the 'form' of an occupation requires emotional attachment or display then it can be difficult for someone to engage fully in that occupation of they are unable to do that (either through individual meaning attributed to that occupation or societal expectation).

In the Royal Mail depot, going through change and uncertainty it bridged the gap between management and ground floor staff to improve morale. In the beginning there was a lot of talk about change, controversy and a suggestion that there song should be Morrisey's "Heaven knows I'm miserable now" ("I was looking for a job...."). In addition, a 'playful' hiss went around the room when it was noted that representatives from management were in the choir. Interestingly, Gareth's song choice for them was "We can work it out" by The Beatles. Members of the choir soon began talking about sending a message and delivering a message which could improve relationships (postal terms rather well used here I thought!) and one manager talking about being in the choir meant that they all helped each other along and that " there's no difference between us". I wonder, does this demonstrate rebuilding a community through occupation that impacts on each individual's well being through improved morale, greater job satisfaction and a feeling of being valued in the workplace? "It's given me some pride back in myself" states one choir member. One manager sees the transferability of what is happening "as a choir we work together brilliantly, we help each other, we put up with each other's mistakes and when we get it right it sounds fantastic. Why doesn't this translate to the workplace? What are we missing?"

In the airport it facilitated crossing the divide of landslide and air side staff, with the clear enabling of an individual, still recuperating after a serious accident, to regain an identity and a role. "this (choir) is helping me feel good about myself again and giving me something to do". One member of the choir talks of a common reason for being there,

I tweeted Gareth to say how much I was enjoying the series and to ask if there were any occupational therapists in his choir. He replied!! Apparently there are. So, if anyone reading this is in one of his choirs, is an OT in his NHS choir, or indeed if you are Gareth himself (and I really hope you are reading this) we would love you to get in contact with us to discuss some of these experiences and issues further.

Please note - links to the iplayer episodes are only available for a short time - 23rd Oct 2012

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Of Balance, occupation and OccuBuzz......

As we speed up towards a new academic year here at Salford and prepare for our new and returning students (to both our undergraduate and post graduate programmes), it is interesting that much of what I am reading and considering at the moment is about balance.

We often speak of work/life balance and bemoan the fact that we are not engaging in those things we wish we could - or maybe think we should.  As occupational therapists we are concerned about occupational balance and use categories such as self-care, productivity, and leisure (Creek, 2003) or taxonomies of occupation versus activity to consider how people engage in occupation and identify areas that may be dysfunctional and/or negatively impacting on an individual's  health and wellbeing.

Whalley Hammel (2009) states that the definition of occupation that appears the most useful, least judgmental, and least culturally specific is that provided by McColl et al., (1993); who defined occupation as being anything that people do in their daily lives. 

However, what is occupational balance? I might often think that I am spending far too much time on work and not enough time with my family, often my relationships with my family can be strained due to work load - why am I still on the computer meeting OT4OT colleagues at 10pm? Why am I marking at a weekend? Responding to emails from my smart phone at 6am as the alarm goes off for another day? However, an interesting conversation with colleagues earlier this week made me look at this in a different way. 

I am someone who needs to have order, know that I have met my own and other's expectations of me and met deadlines etc. Once I achieve that I experience well being - a state of overall contentment—or perceived state of harmony—with one's physical/mental health, self-esteem, sense of belonging, personal and economic security, and with one’s opportunities for self-determination, meaningful occupation, maintenance of valued roles, and ability to contribute to others (Hay et al.; Law et al., 1998; Wilcock et al., 1998) cited in Whalley Hammell (2009).

So, if I did not achieve this would my sense of well being be less - how might this impact on my health? 
Wagman et al (2012) discuss issues of occupational balance and identify that as an occupational therapist it is difficult to consider one universal concept of occupational balance. Often we  talk of work/life balance, lifestyle balance or work/rest balance thus illustrating that the notion of balance is both subjective and contextual. They suggest that we need to  consider balance as a mix   - the right amount of occupation and the right variation between occupations (Wagman et al 2012)  and in this way we can all work towards achieving a  wellbeing that works for us.

Therefore the notion of occupational balance as equal parts of work, rest and play may be outdated, rather than be concerned that my work takes far more time than any other area of my life - maybe this is OK for me. What I might need to be considering is - if I am feeling unsettled by my current state- maybe I should be looking at the amount of occupation and the variation between occupations. I'll let you know how I get on ...

In the meantime, Sarah and I are in the process of designing an app "OccuBuzz" that will launch on World OT Day this year  (27th October 2012). This fun app takes the form of lighthearted quiz that is intended to get people talking and thinking about what they do and to highlight the role of occupational therapy for those who are unable to be their own therapist. The 7 questions ask you to identify how you feel about the things you have to/need to/want to do in your weekly routine. Results will then identify if you may be experiencing occupational balance, occupational deprivation or occupational overload and offers tips and links that may help you based on occupational therapy philosophy and principles.

Watch out for the link to the app soon (I will put it here on the 27th) and in the meantime - how do you measure and monitor your own occupational balance??

We are also supporting The World OT Day blog Carnival organised and developed by Linda at Daily Living Skills. Visit here for more details of the blog carnival


  • Creek, J. (2003). Occupational therapy defined as a complex intervention. London: College of Occupational Therapists. 
  • Hay, D., Clague, M., Goldberg, M., Rutman, D., Armitage, A., Wharf, B., et al. (1993). Well-being: A conceptual framework and three literature reviews. Vancouver: Social Planning and Research Council of BC. 
  • Law, M., Steinwender, S., & Leclair, L. (1998). Occupation, health and well-being. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65, 81-91. 
  • McColl, M. A., Law, M., & Stewart, D. (1993). Theoretical basis of
  • occupational therapy. Thorofare, NJ: Slack.
  • Wagman P, Hakansson C, Bjorklund A (2012) Occupational balance as used in occupational therapy: A concept analysis Scandanavian Journal of OT 19: 322-327
  • Whalley Hammel K (2009) Self-care, productivity, and leisure, or dimensions of occupational experience? Rethinking occupational “categories”   CANADIAN JOURNAL OF OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY VOLUME 76  NUMBER 2 107-114
  • Wilcock, A. A., van der Arend, H., Darling, K., Scholz, J., Siddall, R., Snigg, C., et al. (1998). An exploratory study of people's perceptions and experiences of wellbeing. British Journal of
  • Occupational Therapy, 61, 75-82. 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Behind The Scenes.....

This week saw the beginning of a long and detailed process as we begin to revalidate our Undergraduate and Post Graduate programmes.  Periodically we have to demonstrate that the programmes we deliver are providing upto date best practice in order to be fit for purpose and provide a quality experience for our students.  To maintain accreditation status with COT and the HPC it is vital that we explore all relevant drivers and quality measures both for the Occupational Therapy profession and for our underpinning educational philosophy and practice on a regular basis.

We have now started the process that will end with amended and updated programmes ready to start in September 2014. Seems a long time away now - but I'm not so sure! Helping us (the whole staff team)  with the process will be a number of stakeholder groups including a Strategic Advisory Group with reps from NW managers, student reps and service user groups.

We thought this short slideshow might give a taster of the academic staff team in action. The quote "quite a lot of old dogs in the room" was made by a colleague to illustrate the point that a few of us have been around the block a few times so we need to keep our fresh approach to yet another process - we didn't take offence!

The day, which was rather intensive, was broken up with various youtube videos to help us on our way including ET gets OT,   and a warning not to tease each other. We think we had a rather productive day and have now all been given homework to do ready for the next day in November.