If you have signed up for the newsletter this will have already have arrived in your inbox. If not here are some news and updates for the coming months.

Thank you for your ongoing support of my work at The Wellbeing Atelier. Simply taking the time to read my posts means a lot.

Over 2020 my life and work has changed and evolved beyond measure, I passed my driving licence in January so I could finally leave the village, using my new found freedom to run day retreats, a new group in Pézenas and offer Occupational Therapy at home. Then, well life took a turn for all of us, and having avoided online working I took the plunge and found it a beautiful experience, especially the tea drinking bit.  It was such a gift to be able to share the practices in this way….Italy, California, Wales, England and of course France. Thank you to everyone who came to my sessions and shared my work.

Meditation Ateliers
I miss offering the groups in Gabian and Pézenas and hope to be running them again soon, but for my own peace of mind, I have decided for January and February to offer the meditation ateliers online. The Friday Meditation Atelier is evolving to deepen practice into a 6 week course with worksheets and home practice, if that sounds daunting I promise you they offer delight and wonder. The Mindful Monday Atelier will continue over lunchtimes and is offered as part of the Friday course if you sign up before the end of the year. Read more here.

Occupational Therapy
I will continue to offer individual Occupational Therapy sessions here in Gabian, at yours and also online.  These sessions can support you in maintaining and developing your wellbeing, more information on what I offer here.  

From January I will be the first Occupational Therapist to be part of the ‘Get Loud! Stay Loud!’ team, a dynamic group of speech-language pathologists passionate about supporting those with Parkinson’s Disease in maintaining optimal communication & swallow function.  If you know of anyone who may benefit from this online platform do pass on the information here, the first month is free.

I have decided to close my Wellbeing Atelier Facebook page as I do not have the time to do the upkeep, you’ll find all you need on this website. If you prefer facebook you’ll find all the information regarding my work on my page which I use for professional work, or Instagram.

All going well…… March for in person groups, day retreats this summer and residential retreats for September time. Online groups are also going to continue and will form a staple part of the program. 

Finally, please, please reach out if you’re struggling, or know of anybody who could do with some extra support.  I have 18 years of experience working within various mental health settings in the National Health Service, most specifically women’s mental health and substance misuse, I can offer support and signpost to services.

With all that said.  May you be well, may you be at ease and may you be kind to yourself and others.

Mille mercis,

Wellbeing and Quarantine

This post comes to you from day 5 of home confinement, in the South of France. It is with sadness that sessions at The Wellbeing Atelier are now on hold for the foreseeable future. However, this period of time is opening up other possibilities for personal growth that I am relishing and I will continue to post and make online offerings available.

We know that during this period it’s really important that we look after our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing so I thought I’d share with you some professional advice as to how to manage these uncertain times.

Occupational Therapy Recommandations

The Royal College of Occupational Therapy have come up a list of things to have in your day to adapt to social distancing and quarantine click here for the article which . Below are the recommendations to maintain wellbeing:

1. Establish a daily routines. Routines provide structure and purpose.

2. Balance your weekly routine so you have a good mix of work (activities that have to be done), rest and leisure.

3. Think about the regular activities that are most important to you. What are the most important elements in these? Can you adapt them to carry out in your home? for example, an online class in place of the class you’d usually attend.

4. Set daily goals to provide purpose and a sense of achievement. This might include working through that list of things you’ve been meaning to do but never get round to.

5. Identify the triggers that make you feel low and look for ways to reduce or manage them.

6. Talk with family, friends and neighbours to help them understand how you feel and how they can help if you need support.

7. Take care of yourself. Eat and drink healthily with plenty of fruit, vegetables and water to boost you immune system and energy levels.

8. Avoid staying still for too long. Exercise and regular movement maintain fitness and strength. If you are working form home, take breaks and eat away from your desk.

9. Have a good sleep routine. If you are struggling, try avoiding tea and coffee in the late afternoon and evening, take a bath, listen to gently music, switch off phones and computers and read a book.

10. Keep in touch. Arrange to speak to someone most days.

We are all managing this epidemic together. You are not alone in this, if you have nobody you feel you can reach out to get in touch and I can signpost you to relevant organisations in the UK and France.

The French Breathing Pause.

Now having read through that non-exhaustive list I’d like to invite you to try out the ‘French Breathing Pause’. This self-soothing tool is a new addition to my wellbeing toolkit and I have learnt it from my French husband and many of my friends here, they don’t seem to notice that they do it. It’s a brillant technique which calms the nervous system as you retain more air in the body for it to absorb more oxygen. I will take credit for naming it but not as a technique itself as this probably goes way back in French history….

Deep breath in. Puff out your cheeks and slowly release it through pursed lips.

Do let me know how you get on. Red lipstick is optional.

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 New Goal Setting and Vision Board Ateliers

I am delighted to have started running Goal Setting and Vision Board Ateliers. Having facilitated groups and individual sessions like this throughout my career as an Occupational Therapist, I know how much of a difference these tools and techniques can have in improving the quality of peoples lives. They’ve certainly made a difference to my own (the vision board above is one I created last May).

Goal Setting and Vision Boards at The Wellbeing Atelier 

We begin with introductions and exploring what your ideal life would look like, what do you really want, you’re encouraged to be adventurous, with child like playfulness, we will endeavour to add pieces of this ideal into your daily life. For example, bear with me on this, mine would be to be a ballerina. My own exploration of this pulls out my admiration for the beauty and discipline of the sport and I have crafted both of these into my daily routines as I am fully aware I will never be the Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker. Performing my clunky pirouettes in the kitchen is always possible mind you…

So having thought of your wildest idea and dream, we then move through some questions together about your goals, where you want to be in 5 years and what you need to be doing daily in order to get there. Through this exploration stage we also look at victories, gratitude and the challenges you face. Listening, sharing ideas and exploring together creates such a powerful space to be heard, encouraged and supported. 

Now comes the fun bit (for some, not all), with a blank piece of paper, pens, crayons books and magazines at your disposal we create a visual reminder and prompt that you take with you as a focus point for your goals. Creating something that can be put up at home or perhaps photographed and used as a screen saver to remind you for that month of what you carved out as a vision for your life.

The following month you are invited to have a look at your vision board and check in with your progress, your victories, your successes and the challenges you faced. Regularly doing this can be very helpful in keeping you on track. This is why I’ve set up the monthly group, as a space for people to come back to at regular intervals to talk through the process, refine the goals made and get the support and encouragement of others to get you to where you want to be. 

The dates for the next introductory session will be 18th February and 10th March 2020. You can find more information and additional dates for the Introductory and Follow up groups here. I am also offering individual, 1 hour goal setting and vision board ateliers via Skype or in person for 30€. The outcomes are always so different and interesting, it will be such a pleasure to guide you through this technique. You can read more about me and my work here.

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:


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.