Occupational Performance Coaching

Occupational performance coaching (OPC) is an approach that aims to enhance parents’ problem-solving skills. Through this, OPC creates a more enabling environment for the whole family and facilitates improved participation for both children and parents.

So what are some of the key ideas behind OPC?

Firstly, Occupational Therapists (OTs) and families work together to identify the changes the family would like to make. These are then further broken down into participatory goals, that is an activity and a context that is meaningful to the child and the family.

Secondly, OPC acknowledges that parents are the experts on their families and lifestyles, we recognise them as knowledge holders and decision makers. Importantly, they are also key agents for change so listening to, understanding and validating their experiences is vital. The key point here is that for change to occur, knowing the client’s needs is more important than knowing strategies.

Thirdly, OPC has 3 “enabling domains” – 1) the connection between the OT and parent (emotional support), 2) structure (formulating goals) and 3) sharing (information exchange).

Let’s look at each of the domains in turn.

Connection: this domain is about developing trust, connection and sharing of information. Families are encouraged to consider their situations on a deeper, more meaningful level. Using this coaching method, families do most of the talking whilst the therapist reflects back to support deeper understanding.

Structure: here we use the rapport that was developed and the information that was shared between OT and parent in the connection phase. The parent is supported to come up with their own ideas and goals. To help, we ask questions like: What is the goal? What is most important? What helps? What is doable and will work? Has something else worked in the past? Once the vision is clear the OT and client are then ready to explore the bridges and barriers to making the vision a reality.

Sharing: The sharing component is about empowering families to develop their own ideas on ways to support themselves. This to help families progress toward their goals. It is also an opportunity for the OT to gain a deeper understanding of what is meaningful for families.

There is a lot that OTs can do to help families develop their ideas. For example they can lead a discussion to ask questions like:

  1. What works well for your family?
  2. What have you tried already?
  3. What do you believe are your strengths and weaknesses?
  4. How will that fit in with your family?
  5. What have you found helps?
  6. When do things tend to get better or worse?
  7. What supports you to try to make this happen?
  8. Can you talk me through it, step by step?
  9. Does this feel doable? How confident are you feeling to implement X?
  10. Is there anything else you feel you need to be able to do this technique on your own?

What have you noticed about the goal this week?

However, as with any therapy, some clients do not respond well to OPC. The acts of envisioning a different future to the current reality and taking risks to do things differently can be challenging. Some families are much more familiar with the idea that the therapists are the experts and provide recommendations and strategies. This can make OPC challenging for some families, so they need to be ready to take the lead.

OPC is an evidence – based intervention that strives to empower and develop the autonomy of our clients and their families. It acknowledges that parents and guardians are deeply knowledgeable about their child, their routines and environments and supports them to develop their own goals and strategies and learn how to evaluate and adapt these until they are successful.

By Jayne O’Connor

Image Credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/MtHiQ8NCIoM

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