I am busy trying to find out where I heard this fabulous phrase, which apparently if you find a deeper definition of “Jack of all trades” rather than being “Master of none” it means being a “master of integration” (If you know where I heard it, please tell me!).

I started to ponder what the term “master of integration” might mean in relation to Occupational Therapy, coaching and what we offer to our clients. As so often happens, various synchronicities started to pop up and various jigsaw pieces that I have been grappling with for months started to fall into place.

Taking an integrative approach is needed now, more than ever.

Pretty much all of our problems, issues etc as individuals and communities are not isolated. They are held in a web of interrelated, interconnected dynamic flow. Whilst “sorting out” one part will affect the whole, we need to regard the whole itself and the other elements at play, to see how everything impacts. We need to take a systemic, networked, integrative approach or we risk not being as effective as we could be and at worst risk being irrelevant.

I have been writing a resource for OTs on how to explore and define our value proposition, so we can “sell” OT in the wider world.  I believe this resource is needed more than ever now as businesses often struggle to communicate what their value offering is. And as OTs we have always struggled with this. We know we are really good at what we do, we know it helps, but we struggle to define and communicate it.

I personally struggle with it too and it often undermines my confidence and self-belief.
Recently I have been having email discussions with a Senior Executive Coach in a company about OT.  Twice now she has said “I don’t really know what OT can bring to Executive Coaching”. In other words she is asking what value, does OT propose to offer to the Executive Coaching realm. For a long term I didn’t have an answer, but now I do.

The answer formed as a result of several insights/events I have had of late:

1)    My best friend’s daughter has dropped out of school and I have been supporting them informally to unpick what is going on with “Alice” and I started to really listen to the words leaving my mouth. I could hear myself drawing on my knowledge of sensory integration (limited but it’s there!), mental health, anxiety/depression knowledge, vocational experience, coaching and psychology knowledge,  social and cultural issues, knowledge of occupation/flow/mastery and its impact on self-esteem and confidence, knowledge of physical/motor stuff. I also heard myself listen to my friend as a mother and could hear how this all played out in the family context and how it might impact in that system.  I could think in an “integrative” way but with real meat on the individual bones!  As OTs, that what we do.

2)    The second insight is occurring right now. Ages ago I booked onto some training which takes this week. It was costly and as it approached I started to ask myself why I was going, was I sufficiently qualified to do the work and was it relevant to the work I want to do and my clients. It is a new coaching approach called Network Analytical Coaching, developed by Simon Western who was originally a nurse, family therapist who then turned coach. I signed up because Simons work is the only coaching I have seen that acknowledges the whole person existing as part of an integrated network/whole, rather than just focusing on “individuals” talents, strengths and goals. Whilst many of the coaches on the training will have a psychotherapeutic background and I don’t, I have felt for a long time that an occupational, therapeutic approach brings many strengths that others don’t. OT is more integrative than any other “integrative” approaches out there (I have been getting rather fired up about this lately). Yes, heal the psyche, heal the body, heal the mind etc., but don’t forget how all those systems interact with an environment and impact on our daily actions/behaviours/occupations (PEO, MOHO, KAWA!!!!!) rahhhhh

3)    The third thing that happened this weekend was that I attended a Green Party meeting in my local area. It was to nominate and agree two candidates to stand for the General Election next year.  I listened long and hard to various discussion about climate change, energy and transport etc, but realized that there was a whole chunk missing from the mix: the person, the occupational beings that policies impact on and the behaviours that truly need to be understood in terms of behaviour change and at a systemic level. I mentioned that no-one in politics speaks about the massive threat to the world posed by increasing depression and the impact this would have on everything!  In my mind, I could see the links that need to be formed between education, health, work, transport, community development, economics etc. and how they all impact on human occupation….does no-one talk about this to politicians? “Ecopation”

So what this got to do with coaching and you lovely OTs who read my newsletter? Well several things actually:

–    In our biggest weaknesses, often lie our gold – our greatest strengths (and vice versa!). We need to really take on board that being “Masters of Integration” is one of our best selling points, in whatever realm we operate in. It becomes a weakness if we start being all things to all people,  losing confidence because we are generalists, whereas we are actually experts in “complex human beings, living in complex systems” and sometimes that might not feel valuable compared to other sexy professions and approaches, but we can really explain why it is!

–    OT has much to offer the corporate world, not just Executive Coaching but as a profession that could help organisations work better with the human beings that exist within!

–    That if you ever think your OT skills and knowledge are not valuable in other domains – think again and if you can’t see how, please get in touch and have some coaching – it will bring out the brilliance which you currently can’t see.

Written with love and hope for our fab profession x