Why being an Occupational Therapist working as an Independent Advocate feels so right
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
We believe that everyone who works at The Advocacy People brings something truly unique helping us to make a positive difference to the lives of the people we support. Nemone talks about the synergy between her previous role as an Occupational Therapist and her new role as an Advocate.
Starting a new role following maternity leave in the middle of a pandemic, everyone thought I was crazy. But I had seen this role advertised and its core values felt so well aligned to what I was craving to fulfil my Occupational Therapist’s (OT) heart. The Advocacy People were looking for a Supervising Advocate so not only could I utilise the management skills which I had but also be back on the frontline working directly with clients and, due to the pandemic, it was home working so seemed like the perfect stepping stone back into the work pond.
Independent advocacy is about speaking up for an individual or group. It is a way to help people have a stronger voice and to have as much control as possible over their own lives.
Wow! I mean isn’t that what we do as Occupational Therapists; I could see so many parallels and ways in which I could implement my OT brain into the advocacy role. I studied OT because I wanted to help people holistically, I wanted to enable people to reach their potential. I wanted to challenge the system and push boundaries on people’s behalf.
So here I am, Registered Occupational Therapist and Supervising Advocate about to start on further training to qualify as an Independent Advocate. I found my feet in the role quickly, no doubt due to my previous work and knowledge of the Care Act and Mental Capacity Act. My training as an OT and my working life in the private sector as Care Service Manager and Operations Manager for a Homecare provider have fuelled my passion to empower people.
It’s a marriage made in heaven; we assist people holistically and we are an extension of them to ensure they are heard and ensure they feel included in the processes happening around them. I find myself reflecting on cases which my team are working on and sometimes use the OT process and models of OT to help me plan our next steps.
I meet people (virtually) who are often from marginalised groups and are in periods of their lives where they are experiencing disruption, deprivation, imbalance and/or isolation.
It is in the Advocacy Charter and OT code of ethics that vulnerable people should be treated with dignity and respect as equal members of society, entitled to enjoy the same rights and privileges as any one of us would expect. As advocates, we champion people’s rights, ensuring that they are heard.
Sometimes there are parallels with advocacy and my occupational therapy experience; continuing duty to respect and uphold the autonomy of people, encouraging and enabling choice and partnership working.
A thorough information gathering stage is key to advocacy; meeting (virtually if restrictions apply) with a client allows an advocate to step into the person’s shoes and see the world from their perspective. As an advocate, I don’t put my stamp on what might be best or give my opinion, it is about being driven by the persons intrinsic needs and wishes regardless of where these may come from or why they may feel those decisions are best for them.
Advocates’ knowledge in our field means that we can present the options available to the people we work with, helping them to make fully informed decisions and choices. This to me is an epiphany of ‘becoming’ - listening to and understanding the people I work with helps me to ‘become’ a better person while they are ‘becoming’ listened to, included and heard!
We are just scratching the surface of Advocacy, Statutory Advocacy sits within the Mental Health Act, Care Act and Mental Capacity Act but I feel there is so much more we could be doing to empower people. Using advocacy as a therapeutic tool has so much scope and I’m excited to be working in an area which I can have real impact for people.
Nemone Egan, Supervising Advocate