I have been very fortunate to experience both traditional and non-traditional approaches to my work as a role emerging (RE) OT. I have always been fascinated by the concept of colour as a therapeutic medium, and for 25+ years have attended training courses to explore this concept. I graduated in 2000 with BSc (Hons) OT and completed a ‘basic grade rotation’ before being offered a Senior II post. Simultaneously I was developing myself as a self-employed therapist using ‘complementary approaches’, facilitating workshops, 1:1 interventions, collaborating with a non-profit therapy clinic, and working with local community.

I generally kept my work as an OT very separate to my practice using ‘complementary approaches’ which I found frustrating. I didn’t know of any other OTs practicing ‘off the beaten track’ and those I did speak to were wary of moving away from predefined (medical?) approaches. Being invited to supervise an OT at the non-profit clinic was an interesting turning point for me, as I realised that RE was in vogue, I no longer felt quite so isolated, but my passion for colour still felt strictly taboo – I had years of anecdotal evidence suggesting that colour influenced occupation, but where was it in the OT literature?

Working in a traditional RE setting, as a manager for a charity, engaging hard to reach communities meeting government led local targets, I began to supervise OT students, again, developing innovative supervision approaches, and encouraged students to find their own ‘preferred occupation’. I was fortunate to be also using colour awareness for well-being as part of this role, building up my anecdotal evidence.

At this time, a serendipitous meeting led to the ‘colour for well-being’ pilot, which took place within a larger 3-year research project. A peer reviewed publication (Parkes and Volpe 2012) and international ‘Colour my Well-being’ conference followed. I now confidently use ‘colour’ within my private practice, taking referrals from GPs, self-referrals and elsewhere. Some of my clients also receive OT within the NHS, but choose to come to me privately because I offer something unique and of meaning to them. Other clients are high functioning, successful individuals, who want a professional to assist with occupations such as career development, or relationship changes.

My work continues to emerge, my MSc Advanced OT is exploring colour within primary care interior design with socially excluded patients, and I’m looking forward to working in Europe this year, collaborating with a community arts specialist teaching arts and drama students new approaches. If there was one piece of advice I would give to those considering RE practice? Take some steps today…

Contact details: vanessa@colourforwellbeing.com website: www.colourforwellbeing.com