Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Bake the blues away..

If any of you know me personally then you will know that I am a BIG lover of cooking, in particular Baking. My mind is full of memories of spending time in the kitchen helping my mum bake all kinds of lovely treats and over the years my love for it has grown. Baking for me now is my own kind of therapy. I bake not only when I want to take something to a friend’s gathering or as a special present but also as a way to de-stress and detach myself from the world and its problems.

Since finishing uni, job hunting and having to face the reality that due to the current economic climate finding an OT job isn’t going to be as easy as originally thought when I started my training has led to a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. I decided to channel this into something positive – and so the baking marathon began.
Flour was sifted, pastry was rolled, cream was whipped and cupcakes were frosted...some of the results were as follows:

 All this baking got me thinking, the process of baking for me is really therapeutic, the way that it has this ability to transport me to a place far away from my worries and problems, the feelings of pride and joy that I get when giving people something I have made and them enjoying it and complimenting. This got me thinking, if baking can affect me in these ways then surely it must affect other people as well.

This led me to think about the benefits of utilising baking within OT.
Food preparation and baking is used within OT for a number of reasons, mainly in my experience as a way of increasing skill development and promoting independent living skills. But it can also be used for building social interaction skills when performed in a group environment, as a means of increasing self confidence, self belief and also to provide a productive leisure activity.

I found a really interesting article in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy which relates to this post:
“‘Baking Gives You Confidence’: Users’ Views of Engaging in the Occupation of Baking.” By Lesley Haley and Elizabeth Anne McKay – BJOT March 2004 67(3).
This study shows the responses gained after 12 Mental Health service users engaged in Baking.
The report showed that the benefits received by the service users included:
·         Provided a meaningful occupation, a purposeful use of their time.
·         Engaging in baking also improved concentration, increased coordination and built confidence, leading to an increased feeling of self-esteem.
·         Baking offers a therapeutic encounter that can provide experiences of success and promote improved functioning.
·         The experience of achievement had personal meaning for the participants. They talked about what they had made, expressed pride in their workmanship and described feelings of personal satisfaction. The discovery of previously unknown skills through engagement in baking was also a source of great satisfaction for some.

On my Learning Disabilities placement I worked with a lot of service users who had problems with sensory integration. One service user in particular who had both complex learning disabilities and sensory integration dysfunction. It was decided at the time by myself and my supervising OT that we would try some simple sensory baking utilising The Social Integration model (Fisher et al. 1991) to try and gradually increase positive responses to sensory interaction. The task which we graded and adapted was making Angel Delight (not necessarily baking but was a start and an activity which was suitable and achievable for the service user at the time.) Over a number of weeks the benefits of engaging this service user in ‘baking’ were evident. Not only did we see an increase in their skills and tolerance to different sensory inputs but there was also a definite improvement in their attitude and behaviour. The intervention was working and they were growing closer to achieving their goals.

It is obvious that there are many benefits to baking and when used with the right client, one who would find this occupation both meaningful and purposeful, I feel it could be a really positive and effective addition to their therapy.

I was surprised to find that when I was looking into writing this post there was little evidence or articles which I could find concerning the utilisation of Baking within Occupational Therapy – perhaps this is an area of growth which Occupational Therapist should begin developing. 


  1. Your baking looks fabulous. Interesting research or as you say lack of it.
    Good luck with the job hunt.

  2. Thank you for your comment, I have only just noticed it. I think this is definitely a field where more research is needed. Hopefully one day I will be in a position to contribute some.
    Hope you studies are going well - oh and don't be too grumpy!