The health of an individual depends on a number of factors ranging from social to economic factors. It is the desire of every person to be healthy through his or her entire lifetime. This does not occur and many people find themselves unwell and are forced to seek medication. Although there are countless causes of diseases, our general lifestyle plays a significant role in shaping our health. Daily activities and schedules have the capability of defining a person’s health. According to psychiatrist, daily activities affect our actions, moods and decisions. These activities can be referred to occupation. It encompasses all activities with meaning to a person and defines his culture. It has a wider domain which includes even those activities which affect friends and the entire community. Occupation therapy can be recommended to any person regardless of their age and gender (Ryan and Sladyk 6). Occupational Therapy is mostly recommended to people who are at risk of not carrying out their services satisfactorily. This psychological approach of dealing with health problems was developed several years ago by psychiatrists among them George Edward Barton. This paper explores the life of George Edward Barton with special emphasis on his contribution towards the development of occupational therapy.
The history of occupational therapy has always recognized George Edward Barton as one of the key contributors towards its development. He lived between 8-Feb-1868 - 28-Oct-1949 and co worked with other experts like William Dunton in advancing psychiatry. Despite the fact that George was a trained architect, he turned out to be quite instrumental in the development of OT as his career. He had a unique character with special gifting and talents. He had a variety of friends who influenced him in various ways. From his own experience, George understood the effect of any form of illness to the spirit and body (Ryan and Sladyk 6). In 1901, George was diagnosed with tuberculosis, a condition which later shaped his life and reasoning. His health further received a blow while he was working for Myron Stratton Home as the chief architect. He was infected with frostbite which later developed into gangrene. He was later amputated and got paralyzed on the left hand side of his body.
As a result of a series of illnesses, George relocated to Clifton Springs in New York for proper recovery. On top of all these physical weaknesses, he severely suffered from mental depression. All these rendered him almost useless since he could do nothing to contribute towards community development. According to scientific records, George Edward Barton undertook a self-administered occupational therapy which turned out successful leaving him “healed”. Although he was not completely strong, he was a state that allowed him to contribute to the community. In 1914, he found it reasonable to open a Consolation House where disabled people found solace. He played a pivotal role in establishing the first national Society in the University before serving in various leadership positions (Ryan and Sladyk 6).
George Edward Barton continued contributing to the society by constantly and actively getting involved in supporting disabled and mentally handicapped people. The first meeting of the National society was held in March 1917 and was attended by six psychiatrists including but not limited to Thomas B. Kinder, William Rush Dunton Jr., Susan Cox Johnson and Isabel Gladwin Newton who later became his wife. The Society continued to grow in the number of members and by 1919, 300 members attended the meeting. The name of the society was changed in 1921 and the publication of Archives of Occupational Therapy began (Kramer, Hinojosa and Royeen 21). George is believed to have used the term “Occupational therapy” and later became its major advocate after administering the same on himself. According to Barton, OT was meant to divert the mind of the patient in order to relieve dullness. He believed that occupational therapy was aimed at developing man and not formulation of an object. He believed in encouraging sick people. This would lead to important therapeutic impact.
While at the Consolation House, Barton focused on the medical and social history of the disabled together with their educational background, successes and failures. He believed that by considering these factors, it would be possible to find a fitting occupation for every disabled person. His major contribution was in the re-education and reconstruction which was through employment. He believed that convalescence was the most crucial time for a person to find something to do (Kramer, Hinojosa and Royeen 21). By allowing those who were recovering to work, Barton believed that occupation had the ability to clarify the mind, strengthen the body and provided a new life upon final recovery. He however emphasized the need of involving a doctor for the purpose of prescribing the best occupation based on expected mental results.