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OT Week: Q&A with OT Emma Towns

18 October 2019

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Monday 21 Oct marks the start of Occupation Therapy Week (#OTWeek) across Australia. Out in the community, we often receive the question “What is occupational therapy?”, and so this year we’re shining a spotlight on a couple of Occupational Therapists and we start with Emma Towns.

Emma is an experienced OT in the Hunter Therapy team but also an OT Clinical Supervisor. She provides support and supervision for Aspect OTs on the Northern NSW team and the Mid North Coast team. We asked her to tell us more about her work at Aspect.

How long have you been involved in the disability sector and when did you start with Aspect?

I have been working within the disability sector since graduating at the end of 2011. I worked within a private practice for several years before joining Aspect in 2015.

Could you tell us a bit about your role with Aspect?

I have been quite fortunate as I have had quite a few roles within Aspect over the past 4 years. When initially starting with Aspect, I worked full time as an itinerant therapist; travelling around to children’s and adolescent’s homes, schools and preschools as well as completing sessions in the community. I also was able to take part in a free local playgroup that we were able to offer through charitable funding which provided support and education to families who were just starting their autism spectrum journey. I then took on the role of school based therapist with our Aspect Hunter School, which I have thoroughly enjoyed for the past 3 years. It has been wonderful getting to work closely with the students, teachers, teacher aides and families both in the school environment and through various presentations and workshops. Since 2018 I have had the pleasure of providing clinical supervision and support to our incredible OTs on the Mid North Coast and Northern New South Wales teams.

What do you love about working with Aspect?

As reflected in my various roles within Aspect, the primary love I have for Aspect is the opportunity for growth, change and the opportunity to take part in innovative new projects. A fantastic example of this is our National Meeting that is held in Sydney every year. It is a wonderful time to continue our professional development but also to connect and engage with staff from our various teams across Australia. Furthermore, the opportunity to work and collaborate with our exceptional practice leader team and learn from their years of experience and knowledge. I have found it incredibly beneficial, particularly as I have taken on new roles outside of my own comfort zone. I was initially drawn to Aspect, not only for it’s clear passion and dedication for supporting staff growth and development but also for the flexibility that an itinerant role offered. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to develop my own schedule and have appreciated the freedom that this offers.

I believe in and value Aspect’s vision, mission and values, particularly the dedication we place on ensuring that all services are individualised and meaningful to the individual and their families. Aspect is passionate about creating the best opportunities for all participants which is in line with my values as an occupational therapist.

Why did you decide to become an OT?

I initially looked into occupational therapy following a work experience at the local public hospital when I was in high school. I was immediately drawn to the opportunity of getting to work with individuals to develop and strengthen their independence in their work, play and activities of daily living so that they can live a life that is meaningful to them.

What do you enjoy most about your career in Occupational Therapy?

I love that no two days are ever the same. I love seeing the moment when an individual conquers a new skill for the first time and the immense pride they have in themselves. I love getting to support not only the individual but the wider family unit. I love the diversity and getting to support clients with a wide range of goals such as engagement with siblings, independence in toileting, going to the park and coping with demands of their busy workplace.

If you’re working with an Occupational Therapist who is just starting out, what are some of the things you’d tell him or her?

  1. Don’t be too hard on yourself. While this role is incredibly rewarding it can also be quite challenging at times so don’t feel like have to know all the answers and have all the strategies straight away. In the same way that we put a lot of focus on developing rapport and engagement with our clients, give yourself the same opportunity to settle in.

  2. Never be afraid to ask questions. Your supervisor is only ever a phone call or email away. We also have an incredibly talented, diverse team who are also available to support you and help you out when you need them.

  3. It is okay to not know the answer. Families will certainly respect you more if you say that you are unsure at this stage and will get back to them promptly rather than guessing or avoiding the question. We are all human and we don’t all have all the answers all the time.

  4. While the fact that no two days are ever the same can be a positive factor, it can also be a challenge as it can mean that each day is quite unpredictable and don’t necessarily go to plan. That is okay. Take the time to reflect with your supervisor, with your client and with their families to ensure that your service delivery is meaningful and as successful as possible and don’t be afraid to adjust and review your goals.

  5. Make sure to dedicate time to complete our online New Graduate Program. It is a fantastic starting point to develop your skills and expand your clinical reasoning.

  6. Have fun! You have just started working within an incredible profession and will have the opportunity to connect with a range of remarkable individuals and families. Enjoy it.

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