Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up on a farm at Pinkett, near Glen Innes, riding horses and chasing cows. I loved the horses and the bush.
I was educated locally and then went on to Sydney University to study. I wanted something totally different but was absolutely petrified because I only been to Sydney once before university. I lived near the beach, first at Bondi and then Coogee and was still close enough to nature so I didn’t feel hemmed in.
What led you home to Glen Innes?
I finished uni and met my husband Ed in Glen Innes. He is English, and way more worldly than me. We went travelling into the third world to do aid work. Once we got married, we tried to find a place on the coast, but nothing felt right, so we came home to Glen. Ed set up his practice and I started my first job in Inverell at the hospital and then community health in Glen. At that time, I focused on adult clients.
What does an occupational therapist (OT) do?
We all have occupations in our day: how you occupy your time, with self-care, teeth, toileting, showering, dressing, your sleep, your leisure, play and what you do for productivity, whether that is learning, school or work. If there is a breakdown in any of those areas, an OT can help you.
I work with children and their parents so that the children can become as independent as possible in their everyday activities. A lot of kids I see have difficulties with planning. I take a cognitive, problem-solving approach, asking questions and coaching them to help them come up with their own plans.
I work with a lot of kids on the autism spectrum. I love how quirky and creative they are. Once you have their trust and make a connection, everything else just flows on from there. You can really make a difference.
How did you end up as an occupational therapist?
I wanted to be an actor. I was always drawn to drama, which is very much like play for me. Mum was very sensible – she was a nurse – and said I’d end up unemployed and told me to get a ‘real job’.
I did a prac as a physio but found it too clinical. I was always interested in psychology, in the way people think, and I was really interested in people – human behaviour. When I got a job with DOCS, it was focused on disability, and it was all kids and I absolutely loved it. We had a great team. We would just go to all the play groups, preschools and schools in the area and meet up with parents. It was more of a consultative model.
After travelling and living overseas with my family we got back, and I did a bit of private work – locums. I really wasn’t committed so I had a break from OT for a while and studied horticulture. Then we went to England to look after Ed’s mum, and I decided to get back into OT. And the NDIS was rolling out.
I had disability experience, so it seemed an obvious move, so I registered. I did some study in England and went through the whole registration process. OT for me today is about play and connection and taking more of a coaching approach. Kids managing their own emotions like self-regulation. I like frameworks I can hand on to families.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve overcome?
One of my biggest challenges was working on my own. I’d never had formal supervision early in my career and always worked on my own. I often felt isolated so I spent a fortune on doing training and worked closely with speech pathologists and physios to learn as much as I could. Plus, I had no idea about how to run a business. I had to learn about managing the money. Luckily, I also learnt I could also delegate a lot of things. I’m not a natural with technology. One of the most amazing things was learning to use video in business. I worked with a team called Girl Director and learned so much about using video in my business and also mindset, marketing and creating online courses.
What do you like most about running your own business?
I like that I can make my own timetable up and can be a bit more creative in my work. I really like the personal growth aspect, although that pushed me out of my comfort zone as I’m a perfectionist.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
A single OT can have a successful business without any marketing but if shifting to online delivery, I recommend business courses and finding a clinical mentor and some sort of business coach.
Also, do a bit on your money story – deal with any hang ups from your childhood. So much in business is about the way you were raised with money. Knowing your worth and charging correctly for it is a big thing for women in business. Do reading around that. Get comfortable taking money from people. I had to work at that.
Start as you mean to go on. Set up online practice software and find a really good accountant you can talk to and you can understand. I have a bookkeeper, Jo Hartmann, she’s amazing – keeps on top of everything. I use a virtual assistant to do all my invoicing and intake. This allows me to concentrate on the clinical side of the business and the marketing.
What inspires you?
I’m really inspired by creativity, the opportunity it gives you to express yourself. And I’m inspired by some parents and seeing what can be done. They don’t have limits on their kids. They are committed to their child and really in tune with them.
What is your secret for success?
Not being afraid to be who you really are in business. I’ve always had this pressure of the professional persona. You don’t realise it, but you are taught like that, how to be a health professional. It’s not explicit, but it is the culture of it: professional language, the way you dress, and the way you speak. I always felt I was in a box I was trying to break out of, and that I would get in trouble if I did break out of it. But I found a way to align all the things I have learnt, all my life experiences to line up with who I am as a person.
What’s next for OT Time Kids Therapy?
I’m launching an online course, No Tears Toilet Training for Quirky Kids, in October – at least that’s the plan. In the future I’ll transition into more online coaching and therapy. I also want to start animal assisted therapy. I still want to explore the acting and creative side of things, and I would like to do a bit of blogging. It’s all evolving.