Professor Annie Turner, Northampton University (retired)
Dr Elizabeth Casson’s light bulb moment of understanding the positive impact that engagement in meaningful occupation has on health and wellbeing is probably well known to many reading this page. Her statement, when she saw the positive change in patients engaged in making Christmas decorations that “I knew from that moment that such occupation was an integral part on treatment and must be provided.” (Casson 1955) was an articulation of her conviction, the nub of her central idea about the relationship between health and occupation.
So when I was given the honour and somewhat scary opportunity to deliver the Elizabeth Casson lecture in 2011 I wanted to explore with the profession what had happened to this core concept. Was our professional identity intact? Was Elizabeth Casson’s idea still the central concept that drove our practice? What journey had it been on? And why, oh why, did so many occupational therapists seem to feel that people didn’t understand what they were all about?
To an extent I could identify with this feeling and for me the exploration involved in compiling the lecture was cathartic and affirming. I think by the end I could finally say that I’d ‘got it’, that I truly understood what occupational therapy was about, that I could debate and defend its kaleidoscope of practice scenarios. But I had by then been practising for more than four decades and my path to this understanding had been convoluted and complex. When I reflected on my own journey to ‘getting it’ I realised that, when I qualified with a diploma in the late 1960s, I didn’t really understand what occupational therapy was all about. I knew a lot of anatomy, a lot of craft activities and had some knowledge about mental ill health. I had an idea that putting these together as a form of rehabilitation was what constituted occupational therapy. But we were steeped in the medical model back then and that dominated our thinking and reasoning.
We welcome you to add your comments and thoughts below.