Over the course of my degree I can recall many a discussion between friends about the ‘abstractness’ of theoretical frameworks and whether, when qualified, we would ever really sit down and insert our thoughts and reasoning into a diagram full of haphazard blocks and arrows.
Then as a newly qualified therapist, I did actually surprise myself at how many times I would pull out a textbook or some notes and use these constructs to inform my very inexperienced professional practice (closet nerd for sure). However with experience and confidence, and if I am honest probably workload and business, the less I consciously took my reasoning, thoughts and decisions back to the drawing board.
Fast forward 10 years and in November 2018 I found myself overwhelmed by my much loved and chosen career. I had dedicated what felt like 200% of my life thus far to building this, but where did I want to take it? Did I want to become a clinical specialist or head towards management? Or a mix of both? Did I want to change fields of practice or actually did I want to step away all together? Did I want to move abroad and be closer to family? Or had I settled and did I love my life in the UK? I felt there were so many directions I could go, none particularly negative, but all intertwined and whichever decision I made it would have an impact on what and where my professional career, and to some extent my personal life, would play out.
I do recognise that not everybody feels this way about their career and to some it is simply a means to an end. But it’s a little bit more than that for me. I guess I was possibly having a professional midlife crisis about 10 years too early with an extreme exaggerated response, but such is my personality.
Recognising how overwhelmed I felt, a senior member within my therapy team recommended that I seek out some external supervision. She thought it might be helpful for me to have a sounding board that was completely ‘third-party’ to both my work and personal life. She was right. I started working with Cathy Sparkes on a monthly basis (http://www.cathysparkes.co.uk) and it almost immediately proved beneficial.
Over the course of the next few months, Cathy took me back to the use of frameworks and introduced me to some very tangible constructs that helped me frame my thoughts and feelings and from which I was able to make decisions with which I felt confident. One of the key frameworks I was introduced to, which I have subsequently used in different scenarios, is the ABC technique developed by Finn Tschudi (1977). A simple but elegant model that looks at the benefits and implications of change. Cathy was also able to provide me with some bespoke models to help me process some of the emotions I was feeling related to work and change.
There were definitely times where I cycled home from supervision chuckling to myself as I thought back to my student days and how we ridiculed the ‘abstractness’ of using frameworks and here I was heavily reliant on them once again to move my thought process forward.
Fast forward to February 2020 and the outcome of all my choices finds me in Asia on a career break, in the midst of an unforeseen global pandemic. Here I am once again confronted with multiple choices, most of which will have a long term outcome but need to be made within a short term (hopefully) time of crisis. I have opened my ‘photographs’ folder on my phone and have found the pictures of my supervision notes. This time I am not quite as overwhelmed, despite the unprecedented nature of our current circumstances, as I have rediscovered and can attest to the value of frameworks.
Team Lead Occupational Therapist