How Sewing shaped my future: A Creative Journey to becoming an Occupational Therapist

Occupational Therapists are well known for their ability to be creative in their approach to work and their hobbies. Earlier in the year we heard how our Case Manager Catherine Cottle discovered a surprising link between being an OT and her love of furniture restoration.

Here we talk to our Lincolnshire based Case Manager, Jenny Cooper about how sewing shaped her future career.

Jenny Cooper

Jenny’s sewing journey began as a cash strapped teenager when making her own clothes was an affordable alternative buying brand new.

“I could become completely lost in my own world when I was sewing. The structure of the dressmaking pattern guided me. I didn’t to think too much about what I needed to do next and I loved that I had a tangible object to show for my efforts. When I found dressmaking, I felt I had truly found my niche”

Jenny grew up as an only child in a creative household that provided lots of time and encouragement to make things from scratch. I loved the creative process of making clothes, and when others commented on my work my confidence grew.

Finding Occupational Therapy

It was a disabled aunt that initially introduced Jenny to occupational therapy. “You can sew” they said, “Occupational Therapists keep people occupied through crafts, its perfect for you”. Jenny’s interest was peaked and led her to take a job as an OT assistant in a large psychiatric institution. It was here she discovered just how those stereotypes were created but also there was so much more to OT that fluffy bunnies and basket making.

Over the years Jenny has continued to use sewing as a therapeutic medium with her clients. For those with mental health issues or learning disabilities sewing can help build structure and routine into daily life.  Sewing is a task that can be graded to ensure a successful outcome so clear SMART goals can be set and outcomes evaluated. For those with sensory processing difficulties, the feel of the fabric can be used to stimulate or calm. “I have had the pleasure of observing how the completion of projects has increased a clients self-worth and confidence giving them pride in their achievements” she reflects.

As her professional career took off her dressmaking took a back seat, until recently when she returned to the sewing machine to create her daughter’s wedding dress. “I have rediscovered the joys of sewing, and the calmness and stillness that is available through it is the perfect antidote to a busy day at work.

Jenny Cooper is an Occupational Therapist and Case Manager with Unite Professionals. In 2019 she was awarded Case Manager of the Year by CMSUK.

Jenny is based in Lincoln and has a two-hour client catchment area. She has experience of orthopaedic, neurological conditions, traumatic brain injury, care of the elderly, moving and handling, seating and wheel chair assessment, community assessment, brachial plexus and peripheral nerve injury and stroke. She specialises in mental health, adult learning disability, autism, Down syndrome, and challenging behaviour.