Thursday, 22 March 2018

My Love-Hate Relationship with Occupational Therapy

I've wondered whether to write this. It might not do so well for my book, but I need to get these feelings out. So here it goes.

I have a love-hate relationship with occupational therapy. I love the theory behind the profession.

On paper and in the books it sounds like an incredible profession.

And then — reality comes in to play.

Please note, some of the gripes here pertain to my work experience in Israel. However, I have worked in 4 different countries and some problems sadly are not isolated to Israel.

Bullying in the workplace

In many facilities I have worked in I have been bullied. Further down in the article you will see how this happened in Israel. But I have experiences bullying in the workplace in 3 of the 4 countries I have worked in.

I used to think it was something against me but a few months ago I came across an online course teaching about the high statistics of bullying in the workplace experienced by OTs. I was sad to read the high percentage of OTs who leave the profession or even this world due to how they are treated at work.

The pay is nothing to write home about. Perhaps if you trained in the US and work in the US, you can earn enough but I am talking enough to own your own home and have some life to yourself.

Demands on your time

The demands of the profession are way too high. It takes over your life. With constant continuing education, reading to keep up with the profession, attending meetings, attending conferences, being available for meetings at the drop of a hat, with no prior warning. You can end up with NO life of your own.

Let's face it, I did OT to please my grandfather and the career guidance counsellor, with the goal being to earn me enough to have the time and freedom to do my art. OT has not given me that.

Sharing some of the problems

When I first began developing a photographic service, together with my husband, I was working part-time in two special-ed pre-schools. I was expected to be available for a meeting whenever the staff wanted it. With no prior notice or opportunity for planning. No warning, you were just expected to drop everything and run to the meeting. They had no respect for any appointments or clients I had arranged in what was supposed to be my own time. Paperwork was expected to be carried out in my time, at home, on my computer. They did not care that the computer I use is actually my husband's, and he earns via the computer. The demands for reports were very lengthy and detailed taking up hours upon hours of my time. All work carried out outside of the hours stated in the interview, they refuse to give a written contract, was unpaid work. This written work prevented my husband the opportunity to work either.

At one group of schools I worked in, I was instructed to sign a document agreeing to their dress code even in my time and on vacation time. I'm sorry, I am not a slave. I dress modestly and professionally but I have a right to choose my clothing, myself.

A developmental clinic badgered me, repeatedly to change my head covering in order to show part of my hair. That is just ludicrous! If my head covering meets the requirements given by Torah law, it is not for any place of work to insist that I alter that. I have a right to follow my beliefs. They would not dream of doing that to an Arab or a dark-skinned native from Africa who wears a head covering. Never. So why to a Jew, living in a Jewish country?

This same place of work that did not like my covering my hair,  altered the agreement of how many clients I would receive. Of course, they only paid per client I worked with, even if I was at work and working for longer hours. Of course while not respecting me enough to pay me, they gave me the complex clients. They maintained that they could not afford to pay me for more hours. How can that be when the health insurance companies here or Kupat Cholim in Hebrew paid them per client. If they had a problem with their finances, they had no right to take on a second OT and then refuse to pay said second OT. The right way for them to manage their facility would be to stick to one OT and pay her honestly, in full and on time.

Working conditions

My next gripe is working conditions. OT talks about the environment and working conditions having an impact on one's health. Yet, most interviews I have been to have asked if I can work under pressure and with a heavy workload that usually means you have to magically treat more clients than is humanly possible. As to the treatment rooms themselves, if you read my book you will find out some of my issues with these facilities.

So OT is an absolutely incredible profession, in theory. It promises so much. But my work experience has been that it will not provide a salary that is enough to purchase a home and have stability. With 42 moves behind me and about to face my 43rd, I can honestly say that no-one should ever work for a salary that will not give them stability.

The totally unrealistic expectations and demands on one's personal time also prevent one from being able to nurture who you are as a human being. All giving with no reserves is a sure recipe for burn out and failure.

Would I recommend working as an OT in Israel?


I have had some ask me if I recommend OT as a profession in Israel. So here comes the truth. No, no I would not recommend anyone to become an OT in Israel. You deserve to be treated with respect. You deserve to be paid with respect. No-one should EVER, EVER be paid 390 for a full month working 6 days a week, full school days. There is absolutely no excuse for such treatment. No-one working in a salaried job should ever have to request to be paid.  Neither should they be fired and treated like dirt for having to seek help from an organization to ensure they are paid. Keeping in mind that the organization to help new immigrants informed me that withholding the salary is illegal.

No-one working 6 days a week should have to go and ask their bank manager for a loan and then put up with being told that it is not possible. According to the bank, the place of work has to pay on time and the bank won't help with a loan or overdraft to make up for dishonest places of work. What is the answer? Do NOT work in these facilities. If ALL OTs refuse to work in such conditions the facilities will have to shape up and begin to treat their workers with the respect they rightly deserve.

You deserve to be paid enough to put down a deposit on a home and have stability in your life. You deserve to have fulfilment in your own life, not to be a slave to a system that is corrupt. This includes time to you.

If I were doing my search for a career all over again, one of my questions would most definitely be, what is the earning potential of this career. If I knew over 30 years ago how hard it would be to have anyone understand what my profession is or how hard it is to earn enough to live, I would most definitely put my money into a different profession.

So now you have it out in the open. OT is an incredible profession but there is major work required for it to be recognized enough that OTs can be paid appropriately so that they can live the kind of lifestyle we recommend to our clients. To me, helping a client to improve work conditions while your own work conditions have a negative impact on your health is - hypocritical.

Yes, there is such a notion of working privately, provided the clients pay properly and with respect. I am really tired of the crazy notion that everything is negotiable or that I have to be prepared to offer my services for a minimum wage or as a kindness. I'm very, very sorry! There are expenses involved in working privately and there are expenses involved in offering a top quality service and I have a right to be paid honestly according to what the going rate is. Not only do I have a right but every OT working privately has that same right too. Demanding reduction in fees is totally inappropriate.

It's hard. I'm finding it hard. OT has got into my blood. It's hard to stop thinking as an OT. But it does not provide the kind of income I need to live. I can not keep moving and I simply refuse to be a slave. Aside from that, I am really, really tired of having to constantly explain what OT actually is. For heaven's sake, people, grow up and read up on the profession and start treating health professionals with the respect that they deserve.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Sharing and Preparing for 2018

I was watching a video of Oprah Winfrey winning an award where she talks about the power of telling one's story. I have mentioned parts of my story in various places, but perhaps it is time to share more for the simple reason that through writing one gains clarity. In addition, by sharing tools or ideas that I come across, perhaps I can reach my goal of really empowering widows and orphans.

Today I heard about an OT who had ended her life and then sadly heard about a few more. The knowledge made me think about those I have come across who attempted to take their lives and failed or who did actually take their lives. I think about the reasons that I know about. Sometimes the reason is not really known. Other times it can be total desperation that leads to such drastic actions. You'll need to sign up to become a Patron on Patreon in order to find out how these findings have something to do with my creative work.

In the meantime, I can share that I know what it is like to feel desperate and I know what it is like to feel alone. To answer those who ask what role can OT have to play with widows and orphans? Partly to help them to develop the systems they require to thrive. These can be support or financial independence. It can be grieving or making peace with the change in the family structure. It can also be figuring out how to have a meaningful relationship with a significant family member who is no longer in this world.

One area of OT intervention is the therapeutic use of self which means that the therapist is able to make a positive impact on the life of his / her client through sharing who they are and what they have been through or overcome. In an interview that was featured with me on OT Potential, I was asked what motivated me in the early years of my becoming an OT. I'm sorry if it is not the answer that most want to hear, but my answer was the potential to gain or attain financial independence. Having lost my father when I was still at school, I had put myself through university to obtain a degree that I thought would both help others and enable myself to earn a decent salary. I did not expect for the salary to be lower than I had considered it might be or for the added strain of paying off tuition and health expenses from a chronic illness that had developed.

In the years since I qualified, sadly my goal to attain financial independence has not budged much. I still have the same financial struggles. This year I am more determined than ever to change that. It is my goal too, that by researching what type of work can enable me to meet my financial goals and needs that I can help other orphans and widows to do the same as well.

In the video I had watched about Oprah, she had mentioned her mother working as a house cleaner. The comment reminds me of how many have told me here in Israel to give up my profession and just clean houses. I have no idea why anyone would want to limit another. If someone has the ability to obtain a university degree in a profession that is of benefit to others, why squash their abilities.

Even in the last few days I have had the hard struggle with a publication I had paid to publish and advert that I could promote my private practice take the money and not publish the ad. It is hard to know that the publication is linked to an organization that is supposed to help Olim, not crush them. whatever their reason was for doing what they did, the organization has no idea what hard effort went into coming up with the funds to pay for that advert. They do not realize the challenge of altering direction in one's work in order to level up to earn better so as to take care of an aging parent. They don't know the reality of having no family to turn to for help and needing to rely on one's skills not to pay for a holiday or a luxury but for basic survival.

The last few days have been a hard reminder that many out there are not interested in the real needs of others. There are many who lack respect for the essence of who a person is. There are many who will cut down ones goals and dreams with just go and clean houses as their routine instruction.

What if the housecleaning does not earn enough to meet one's financial needs? What if the person needs to earn better? Well, everyone has the right to set the financial goals that are realistic to their life situation. We have freedom of choice and I am quite outspoken against putting someone down by robbing them of their G-d given talents and forcing them into menial jobs.

The minimum wage syndrome is something that in Israel for sure has to change. It has been one of the hardest realities of my move to Israel. So join me in my search for how to earn the kind of income that is life sustaining while still using my skills and talents. For if I can figure out how to get from poor orphan to success, then you can learn along the way and become successful too.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Navigtaing the Same Old Questions

For years I have been quite frustrated at how few really understand what OT is. Yes, OK, I'll elaborate OT stands for occupational therapy. It's a profession that requires a university degree in most countries, a few countries have certification from a college. It's part of the medical team and yet, hardly known at all? However, it is an incredibly, amazingly awesome profession. I don't think there are enough descriptive words for just how special this profession is. It gives meaning to life, hope and so much more.

Do you ever hear someone ask what a nurse is? No, of course not! Even kids playing doctor - doctor or hospital - hospital, know what a nurse is. Most people know about a social worker, psychologist, physio, speech therapist (OK not everyone knows that a speech therapist works with swallowing too and some don't know that many also work with hearing. But for the most part, people understand speech therapy.) So what is so unique about OT? How come no-one knows what it is? And how come it is the ONLY member of the medical team that actually SAVES money, time, heartache, frustration and more. Yes, the stats in the research states the financial saving, I am extending that to the other savings that happen from OT.

As a student it was a little irritating but I kept thinking there must be more I need to learn or perhaps once I am qualified I will meet people who understand. 26 years later, I still get most people saying, "occupational therapy, what is that?"

Just a few days ago I was talking to someone about an advert I placed in a local publication. "Yes," she said, "I saw the advert. Very attractive nice advert. But," she continued, "I hate to break this to you, but no-one actually knows what occupational therapy is."

"Yes, I know," I replied. "That is why I have written a book to explain what occupational therapy is. The cover image even appears in the advert."

She nodded, shrugged and said, "but no-one knows what occupational therapy is."

Today someone read the blurb of the back cover and the 3 reviews up so far and said, but it does not explain what OT is. You have to explain in your blurb what occupational therapy is, who it is for and why anyone should know about it.

Sigh! That is what the content of the book is all about. The profession is vast. It can not be condensed into a sentence, with another sentence saying who it's for and another why you should learn about it. That would make a nice and tidy three sentence blurb but I just don't see how to do it. HM, is that a challenge? Actually, if it were possible, all I would need is a three sentence blurb and no book. If that were possible, we'd have ONE definition of the profession instead of numerous ones.

Did you know I spent hours with my editor working on the blurb that is currently on the back of the cover? Did you know that the first blurb had a summary and I was instructed not to cover the contents on the back of the book but to give enough of a tease to make people interested and hence they will open the book to find out more.

Oh well, so the profession of OT is not well understood. Well, that's why I have got into promoting the profession. Everyone needs to know what OT is, because everyone has to be active in life. Why? That is how the world was created and that is just how it is. This is the world of action and we all need to be active. Ok, so there are people who are in comas. Yes I do know that and guess what, OTs works with people in comas too! 

If you could see me now, you'd see I'm having a good chuckle. But of course that is not possible. So I'll love and leave you and hope that you discover enough reason to want to search out what occupational therapy is. Why? Well, it's awesome. It's holistic. It genuinely helps others in meaningful ways. It gives hope to those who have none (a sentence from the back of my book). OT is vast. It's dynamic and evolving and incredible and if that does not get your interest up, then I rest my case and move on to find someone else who will be interested.

Have a great evening and if you have any interest in finding out what occupational therapy is and what makes it so special, check out my book. Purchase a copy and let me know what you think about it. Oh, and sign up for my newsletter where you can find out when the next book will be coming out. It's coming along nicely and yes, it also has some info to help you to understand the profession of OT a little better. Just a tad.

Actually, before you go, I'm preparing to give a series of talks or webinars on occupational therapy. If you are interested, drop me a line, send me a message and I'll add you to the list. Some talks will be in person and others online so, where you live does not matter. Time zone might so let me know what time zone you are in and I can do my best to figure out a good time.

This post is prepared for you by
Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer, author of "Healing Your Life Through Activity - An Occupational Therapist's Story" and co-author of "Tuvia Finds His Freedom".

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