Feeling Fortunate

Dear OT,

We are fortunate, fortunate to have found a profession that can be a true fit, a gift. Not just a job- a way of life. Every occupation matters, not least our very own career.

Having grown up on a sheep farm in rural Scotland, the days were busy, full of purpose and productivity. The environment was vast and interests, many. At the age of seventeen I left country living for city life, to study occupational therapy.

I have always loved spending time with children. I am in awe of their individual potential. Child development captured my interest. After all, every child grows into an adult, who then parents a child, who grows into an adult and the life cycle continues.

Staying true to our profession has always been important to me; to facilitate health and wellbeing through engagement in occupation. Occupation being how we occupy our time. We need to support children and young people to find a balance in what they need to do and the things they want to do, gaining a sense of occupational balance. We can follow a strengths-based approach, considering the individual’s interests, skills and routines, as well as the environment which they live within. We can make appropriate adaptations to enable function and work together to develop new skills. Having an understanding of the barriers to participation is our unique contribution.

Throughout my career to date I have excessively asked ‘shoulda, woulda and coulda’. Many a lesson has been learnt and continue to be learned. My intention is always to help and to offer timely support to those in need.

My journey is ongoing. Here are some fundamental takeaways thus far.

  • Optimise on opportunity – often the best learning comes from the trickiest of situations.
  • Listen. Always. Perspective and understanding changes responses, our own and others. Curiosity is the key.
  • Be aware of expectations; those of yourself and those we work with. Remember we don’t always have to ‘fix’, we can offer hope, contain, and demonstrate that we can tolerate the distress and expressed emotion, without dysregulating ourselves. We can support problem solving and upskill where appropriate, and possible. Bring awareness, particularly to emotional regulation and core beliefs. Beliefs are almost always the reason we do what we do and think like we think.
  • Sense of safety and trust is essential, the baseline to progress and the place we must frequently return. The child or young person will benefit from reassurance, as does the autonomic nervous system. The magic is in the relationship, in the application of theory into practice.
  • As an individual, stay true to yourself and to our profession. Aim to reflect your values. Learning is a lifelong process and is a privilege. Make it happen, both personally and professionally. But remember to practice what we preach with regards to work, life balance.
  • When I heard the phrase ‘evidence informed’ practice rather than ‘evidence based’, I felt energised. We have so much to offer, an understanding grounded in occupational focused frames of reference and models of practice, within the context of a wealth of neuroscience and neurobiology.

Having worked for the British National Health Service for sixteen years, I pride myself in promoting their values: care and compassion; dignity and respect; openness and honesty and quality and teamwork. Offering accessible and timely access to attuned support is a personal value. As capacity and demand misalign, referral criteria tighten, and waiting times, in the context of child development, are excessive, my drive and passion has been diverted. I am motivated to grow and expand into private practice.  Over the past two years, this has brought me joy and connection. I love the work I am doing, supporting families and likeminded occupational therapists achieve occupational balance for both themselves and their patients. The field of child and adolescent mental health, encompassing neurodiversity, remains my focus, and personal and professional development, a priority.

My main message – do more of what you love and notice and connect with the joy it brings!

Best wishes,

Rhona McAlpine

Website: otmcalpine.co.uk

Instagram: @otmcalpine

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