Dr Anita Mottram, Principal Occupational Therapist – enabling people to be independent

What sparked your interest in Occupational Therapy?

Like most people when choosing a career I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. It was my Careers Advisor at school who suggested the role of Occupational Therapist, a profession I hadn’t heard of. I had given him my criteria which was to work with people, not to be desk based and for each day to be variable rather than routine. I read more about what the profession could offer and was hooked as there were so many different areas that you could work in once qualified.

How long have you been doing this role and what does a typical day involve?

My role is Principal Occupational Therapist for Kirklees Council. I qualified 30 years ago, with 3 years training prior to that.

The Principal Occupational Therapist role at the council is relatively new and involves working across a range of departments and services, providing professional support for the occupational therapy workforce as well as working alongside colleagues to contribute to the development of service provision.

In this current role, I have met two of my three original criteria, the exception being that I am much more desk based now than when I was working clinically! I still work with lots of different people though and would say that there is no such thing as a typical day in this role!

What would you say is the key focus of an occupational therapist?

The focus of an OT is to work with people, to identify areas in their life where they are having difficulty and to maximise their strengths to put coping strategies in place to manage these.

These could be physical or psychological needs and solutions are person centred and individualised. We work in collaboration with individuals to identify what is best placed to empower them and enable them to be as independent as possible.

Solutions may be advice, changes in technique, and the provision of services or assistive technology devices such as equipment, adaptations or digital solutions.

What do you enjoy the most about the role?

When we meet people for the first time, they describe areas of their life that they would like to change.  If they have physical difficulties this could involve them showing us what is difficult for them to undertake.

It is really rewarding to work with people to consider solutions that can help them to manage these areas themselves and be independent. Sometimes a small change can have a huge impact on a person’s ability to live their life how they wish to live it.

What advice do you have for anyone interested in joining the profession?

Recognise that whilst there is job satisfaction, the job can be challenging, not least because the profile of the profession isn’t perhaps as great as that of some other health professions.

Be prepared to promote occupational therapy and what it can offer to the client but also the organisation.

It’s an opportunity to work with many amazing people and very humbling to appreciate the areas of difficulty that some people are having to cope with on a daily basis.

Finally, how can people access support from an occupational therapist?

People may access the occupational therapists working for Kirklees Council through contacting Gateway to Care on 01484 414933 and having a conversation with the staff in this team about what they need.

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