Ian Taverner is the creator of Cookfulness, a cookbook designed for people living with chronic illness. He has joined forces with Bath Centre for Pain Services to launch a new creative therapy programme and here he shares what this programme will include

Just three short years ago, I was entering the Bath Centre for Pain Services (BCPS) to start a four-week residential programme. I live with chronic fibromyalgia, arthritis, anxiety and depression and I had had to give up my career and large parts of family life as a result.  There didn’t seem to be any way of getting any sort of quality of life back.

However, this programme was the beginning of a brand new and exciting chapter for me and my family. Back then I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams where I would be now.

As well as helping me understand, accept and live with my pain, the programme also sparked my creativity like never before. BCPS is an interdisciplinary team, within which the OTs work on value-led activities, starting with exploring what is truly important in a person’s life. Not a list of things to do, but connecting people with their value’s true meaning.

This is a major reason everything began to make sense to me. A slow unwind of what life had become, followed by a slow rebuild of what life could be was just amazing. Redefining what it was I really wanted, and how on earth I could possibly get there was genuinely life-changing.

CookfulnessI wrote the cookbook, Cookfulness, to help others living with chronic illness find ways to get into the kitchen, really love to cook and get the massive therapeutic power cooking can bring. The success has been incredible and led to me being able to donate money to the Bath Centre for Pain Services, which was always my plan, even if it sold just one copy!

I have always retained a great relationship and communication with the staff in BCPS, so when we started to discuss my donation it very quickly became apparent that we could work together, using the funds to introduce something exciting that created even more opportunities to explore values activities. The Ian Taverner Creative Therapy Programme was then born.

Working with the lead clinician and OT we have developed the activities strand to be even more creative and even more impactful for the adults and young adults on their programmes. Focusing more on identifying, developing, appreciating and unleashing their creativity. We have designed it specifically to open up even more opportunities, learning and excitement as they work through their four-week programme.

The areas covered are varied and include:

  • Cooking – this is right at the heart of the programme, involving recipes I’ve exclusively designed for BCPS. It includes shopping for ingredients, identification of costs and alternative options, this is combined with knowledge of nutrition and how to create delicious, nutritious, simple food.
  • Creating a garden – exclusively for patients to allow them to plant, nurture, grow, pick and cook with produce, building understandings of seasonality and food sources, all directly linked back to the rest of the programme.
  • Sensory experiences – patients will be tested and tantalised, introduced to new flavours and textures through games and quizzes.
  • Music – understanding its real power, both positive and negative, creating and discussing the importance of playlists for each group and individual that they can develop and grow post programme in capturing new positive memories.
  • Mindful photography – stop, pause and observe – thoughtful and beautiful.
  • Characterisation – of pain, feelings and emotions.
  • Art – visualisation and capturing of life with chronic pain, opportunities and values.

How the programme will help
First and foremost, it has to complement the existing incredible programmes in helping patients live better lives with their pain conditions, giving the values activities another power up button. It is all about building confidence, building belief, building togetherness, building understanding and exposing patients to exciting experiences and opportunities, allowing them to continue to express themselves and learn how to apply that to their lives when they leave the programme.

A lot of this will be about understanding emotions, thoughts and feelings throughout, how they respond physically and mentally and how they can use creativity to help as a key part of building a better quality of life for them and their families.

Learning how to build some of the creative skills and experiences they will use in day-to-day lives is crucial. Learning that life can include some fun again.

The plan is to formally launch this in June, where there will be a celebration of BCPS’s new premises as well as the creative therapy programme. Before this we will be starting to implement elements and will be building towards the full launch.

I will be there for the launch with the Trust and, hopefully, be a part of the OT team when this exciting new project starts to go live with patients, helping to deliver it.

The programme will not be remaining static either as we will be continually assessing, tweaking, and adding, to make sure it stays as relevant and impactful as possible.

I have almost gone full circle, from being a patient in 2019, through to now helping design and deliver this amazing new creative therapy programme back to new patients. Almost full circle as I never close the loop really, there is always work to do and it takes a lot of focus and effort to manage day-to-day life still, but knowing I have helped create this makes me incredibly proud.

I am also in discussions with a major hospital in London discussing helping them to implement cooking therapy for their patients who live with chronic pain conditions across a variety of illnesses, which I am incredibly excited about.

Ideally, I would love to work with more and more hospitals, organisations, charities on bringing the therapeutic joy of cooking and creativity to their patients too. I am a living, breathing example of what this can bring and my passion now is to help others find that too.  Working with health professionals around the country to achieve this is a dream that just a few short years ago felt undeniably impossible. Now it is becoming reality.

Finally, an enormous thank you to Hannah Connell, clinical lead for chronic pain speciality and consultant clinical psychologist, and Kim Connell, OT at BCPS. Their faith and support of me goes back a long time and has helped get me to where I am today. Their desire and passion to bring this amazing development to life is inspiring.

If you are interested in hearing more about the work I am doing and how I may be able to help you, please do get in touch. I am on all social media platforms @cookfulness and have a dedicated email address cookfulness@gmail.com.

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