Welcome to the first post in a new series I am excited to share with you. “The Art and Science of Everyday Living: an interview series with innovative occupational therapists”.
We are shining a spotlight on OT and how you can benefit.
Our first conversation is about a topic that impacts more than 1 in 5 people globally: chronic pain.
If you have an invisible health condition like chronic pain, you may find pieces of your own story reflected in the words of the occupational therapists interviewed in this series. You may even find a tip or two to help you live your life with more ease, joy and meaning and foster a renewed sense of hope.
As always, please speak with your own health care provider for individualized advice before applying any new strategy. If you need further support and the OT profiled lives in your area, feel free to reach out for more information.
We are glad you are here!
Linda Crawford is an occupational therapist specializing in chronic pain rehabilitation. She is a pain educator, certified facilitator of Brené Brown’s Daring Way™ shame resilience curriculum, and a former chronic pain sufferer.
From Linda’s bio: “At the age of 50, in the best physical shape of her life, she suffered a work injury that sent her on a five year journey of pursuing her personal recovery from chronic pain. Against all odds, after applying the latest research of the neuroscience of chronic pain and personal knowledge of OT practices, in 2014 she became chronic pain-free. Linda opened her private practice, Brave Chronic Pain Therapy, to assist other chronic pain sufferers in restoring their bodies, rebuilding their lives, and renewing their joy.”
I first met Linda Crawford at The Daring Way™ national training in San Antonio in 2014 and how fortunate I was. I continue to learn from her wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and commitment to applying the latest evidence for chronic pain and practices for wholehearted living. I’m so grateful to have her as our first OT in this series.
Over to you, Linda!
How do you describe your role as an OT to the people/clients that you work with?
Because I now have a home-based private practice, finding out a few things about the person I’m talking to is easier than when I was working in a hospital setting and helps the rest of the conversation flow more naturally. Instead of “Hi, I’m Linda, and let me tell you about occupational therapy,” it’s “Hi, I’m Linda, tell me about yourself.”
After I learn more about the person, I segue into what OT is about by saying something like this: “I’m here to help you heal, and that means together we are going to study the science of you—which includes investigating the physical, psychological, and social aspects that contribute to your healthiness (or unhealthiness)—explore your goals, and together problem solve plans to get you where you want to be.”
In short, “in OT I help you to restore your body, rebuild your life, and renew your joy.”
In your practice, what are some common struggles or symptoms that you support people to adapt to, manage, or overcome?
In working with clients with chronic pain I find most clients struggle with three major emotional issues that are intertwined with the physical and social impacts:
- Grief over the loss of roles, relationships, social connections, and physical abilities.
- Shame of not being able to do/be/feel/live like they would like or expect of themselves, and also shame from experiences with medical and non-medical people who fail to offer empathy and contribute to feelings of failure and being judged or misunderstood.
- Despair after trying to “do everything right” and failing to get better.
I’ve found that recognizing and providing emotional support is critical for achieving a trusting and safe therapeutic relationship that allows me as an OT to empathically guide the therapy process forward to help people meet their goals.
Are there strategies that you find yourself mentioning often to clients that someone reading this could apply in their life today?
Yes!! Write permission slips!
- Give yourself permission to feel—cry/rant whatever—and go through it.
- Give yourself permission to listen to your body and take care of yourself.
- Give yourself permission to ask for help.
- Give yourself permission to slow down and give your body the time it needs to heal.
- Give yourself permission to say no, speak your truth, and own your own healing process.
- Give yourself permission to indulge in things that are good/joyful/silly/creative/adventurous/pampering/restful/meaningful/fun…
- Give yourself permission to be afraid and brave at the same time.
- Give yourself permission to . . . (you fill in the blank!)
Favourite or most recommended online resources, books or apps?
Most recommended book for clients with chronic pain for education in the bio-psycho-social science of chronic pain is “Why Do I Hurt” by Adriaan Louw.
Most recommended resource for developing shame/pain resilience for the psycho-social aspects of chronic pain is “Rising Strong” by Brené Brown.
Most recommended online resource for the development of self-compassion and self-care skills is Self-Compassion.org by Kristin Neff.
What do clients most often express appreciation for about your perspective as an OT?
I always get comments about how great it is that I try to look at the whole picture of who they are and how they want to live their life. They appreciate how we work together to create a therapy plan that works for them as an individual instead of me just telling them what to do.
What area of emerging research are you most excited about currently? How do you think it will shape your OT practice and the lives of the people you work with in the years to come?
I am most excited about the pain research into the psycho-social aspects of chronic pain which is indicating that addressing these aspects has far greater impact on healing from chronic pain than addressing the physical aspects. Integrating psycho-social interventions with the physical is where OT’s are uniquely qualified as biopsychosocially trained health care professionals to make an impact.
In my opinion, science is confirming over and over now what we as OT’s have always known . . . we must be patient centered, holistic, biopsychosocial practitioners to facilitate the best healing outcomes for our clients. I hope this research will continue to validate the value of OT and offer further insights into how I can best help my clients.
How has being an occupational therapist influenced how you live your life?
I can’t imagine how my life has not been influenced by becoming an OT. I went back to college at 26 to complete my OT degree after discovering I was personally wilting working in the business world. Everything about the OT philosophy of fostering a whole-hearted, whole-life, whole-person approach to achieving health and well-being resonated with me.
The rhythms that guide the very heartbeats of my life come from OT. I live everyday what I share with my clients.
OT fosters inspiration, compassion, creativity, curiosity, courage and joy—in myself as well as the people I am privileged to work with. OT has helped me grow and bloom!
Occupational therapists believe that the ‘occupations’ we engage in are essential to our health and well-being. What are some occupations that shape who you are, bring meaning to your life and/or restore you?
First, and this one is part occupation and part living or working environment (also essential to health and well-being!), I MUST have flowers in my life. I have multiple vases in my house; I’ve lost count of how many flower pots on my deck, and have wildflowers over at least half my yard. One of my favorite quotes is:
“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” – Henri Matisse
So I cultivate and collect flowers to bring me meaning, joy, restoration, and health!
I also love to write, play piano (just for my own pleasure), exercise, hike, travel (a lot), help plan events and celebrations, attend concerts and listen to music, do small home remodeling projects, and I’m working on transitioning cooking from a chore to a restore!
Three sensory experiences that bring you a sense of calm?
- Swinging on a porch swing
- Sitting with my furry, big fat, black, lovable cat on my lap.
- Beautiful piano music (hubby plays!)
What core values guide you in your life and in your work?
Compassion, Courage, and Faith
Do you have a phrase, mantra or strategy that helps you show up and live brave, even when life is difficult?
Do it Afraid – Wear Red Shoes – Dance Anyway
One (big or small) thing on your bucket list and one you have already checked off?
Still to happen – Dancing lessons with my hubby!
One of the many checked off – sang “The Hills are Alive” (while spinning foolishly with arms open wide of course) on a mountainside in Austria!
Words of wisdom or encouragement for anyone reading this who is struggling with a health condition or a life transition?
Be kind to yourself, healing is hard work. Find your tribe of caring, compassionate people who will support you in your goals for your healing. Take ownership of your own health and live brave by daring to speak your truth, asking for help, courageously tackling the tough stuff, and persistently pursuing your healing in the slow lane to success.