The Basket Weavers

My Great Grandfather was part of the Occupational Therapy movement during the Second World War working in a hospital in Scotland supporting the rehabilitation of soldiers. The profession first came about during world war 1 when it was observed that injured soldiers who were tasked with activities, such as basket weaving, had better treatment outcomes than those who were left to recover with bed rest. When occupied in meaningful activities that we need, want or are expected to do proved to enable us to maintain wellbeing and support recovery. And so Occupational Therapy was born. We’ve been nicknamed ‘The Basket Weavers’ ever since. I quite like how the French refer to the profession ‘artisanes de votre liberté’ – artisans (craftsmen/women) of your liberty.

I’ll be celebrating my 20th year in the profession this July so I thought I’d do a post about this little known profession. When I say little known this in unlikely to be the case if you or a loved one has had a health crisis. If this is the case, you will certainly have become aware of our profession within hospitals, community health provision and social services. We are the people who support safe discharges, assess ability to go home, run practical, activity based sessions to build and strengthen skills to support peoples rehabilitation journeys. We support people to live their lives independently, in alignment with their values. During my career as an Occupational Therapist I only ever worked with people in crisis. The possibilities of self-referral were limited within the structures that I was employed within.

Through The Wellbeing Atelier I have been able to realise a dream of developing an Occupational Therapy program available to all, supporting people to live to their full potential. To begin with I ran the Mindfulness and Mindful Compassion Meditation Ateliers, monthly afternoon retreats and have recently begun offering Goal Setting and Vision Board Ateliers. In addition to the groups I also have a small individual caseload, working both in person and online. Over the coming year I will be offering a wider variety of ateliers around a range of different wellbeing themes, such as a sober curious atelier, a pain management course and a carers group. Some will be one off stand alone sessions, others monthly and also a series of courses that run for 4-8 weeks. I am aiming to make as much of the content available online as well as in person, and from September sessions will be offered in both French and English.

Setting up in private practice has been a daunting process but exciting. I miss my clients and colleagues but love not having to go to meetings about meetings. Crafting my own ateliers around the needs of those who reach out and also my own specialities and interests is very rewarding. It’s still early days and I am continuing to learn and grow, if there are any ateliers you would like me to offer please get in touch via jaddufourd@icloud.com.

You can read more about Occupational Therapy from the Royal College of Occupational Therapy here or Association Nationalité des Française Ergothérapeutes ici.

The Red Lipstick

The Red Lipstick

I felt so directionless that first year of living in France, I didn’t know who I was any more. Without language I wasn’t able to communicate well, without working I didn’t feel valued. I questionned and analysed everything.

‘Oh!’ I was greeted with one morning outside of the school ‘You’re wearing red lipstick.’

I didn’t know whether it was a question, a statement or simply an observation. That was the start and the end of the conversation, the school gates opened the children ran in and I scurried off. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. All I could think was I’ve made another mistake, I’m drawing unnecessary attention to myself and this was the final in a long line of blunders that I was frustrated with myself for making (for example be mindful of your pronunciation of ergothérapeute, the french for occupational therapist, if you pronounce ‘peute’ like ‘poot’ instead of ‘putt’, like in golf, essentially you’ll be talking about an ergo prostitute). Whilst in retrospect my gaffs were amusing, at the time I in absolutely no way wanted to bring any further attention to myself. I wanted to fit in and belong.

The lipstick went in the bin.

When I envisioned my life here I’d thought this could be a time to introduce wearing red lipstick, a new ritual, an opportunity to reinvent myself, a fresh start in a new country.

I wanted everything so quickly, to arrive, speak french fluently and fit in immediately. It took a lot longer, sitting with the frustrations of things taught me to slow down. Turning towards the difficulties within my meditation practices rather than pushing them away. Things fell into place without me needing to do much more. I took care of my family, I studied, I meditated, I took tea and I waited.

I’ve made no New Years resolutions, I’m simply wearing the red lipstick as a nod to how far I’ve come. Dior, 999 if you need the specifics, the exact one I chucked away.

That comment came at a time that I was vulnerable and at times like these we are more likely to experience and express extreme reactions. I look back with kindness to myself, I responded in the best way I could have at that time. If I received the same comment now I’m sure I’d respond differently. But just in case I’ve rehearsed what I’d say if I received the same remark again:

‘Oui.’

Josephine Dolan-Dufourd lives in the south of France with her young family, she writes about life in France, Occupational Therapy, Mindfulness, Self-Compassion and Tea. If you would be interested in exploring with Josephine any of the themes she discussed in this piece you can find details about her work here.