My Journey

A bit about how I ended up ‘here.’ I was older (42) when I got my PhD from the University of Georgia. But, my pathway to there was a winding one! I had worked for many years in retail and other things before a ‘life crisis’ in my mid-twenty’s forced me into my aunt and uncle’s basement. What saved me from ‘going over the deep end’ was a return to sewing—something I used to love and could still do. From this, I realized I wanted to help others re-discover what they used to love to do as a way to cope with life’s challenges. I ended up training to be a recreation therapist and worked for many years in a long term care facility then neuro-rehabilitation (e.g., with people who had had a stroke or were dealing with a disease like multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s). While I loved my work I also loved learning so decided to go back to school for graduate studies (no one in my family had ever gone to graduate school so this was a ‘big deal’).

Through my work I had become very interested in how everyday leisure activities—and small moments of enjoyment—could make a big difference in helping people not only cope with and adjust to their illness or changes in abilities and relationships but also how it could be part of people ‘re-inventing’ themselves (i.e., as a source for personal growth and development). After grad school I taught in the United States and then have been at Dalhousie University at the School of Health and Human Performance since 2004. I am grateful for the chances I’ve had to continue to learn, from students and study participants, about the ways leisure (enjoyable and personally meaningful ‘doing’) can be a resource for living life fully and well, even when faced with challenging life circumstances like the illness or loss of a spouse, divorce and re-marriage and living with an acquired disability or chronic health problems.

Over the last few years I have been part of two larger research teams where we worked collaboratively with community and government partners to look at how to reduce barriers that people experience to accessing recreation opportunities in the community. To access information, resources (e.g., an educational game and practice guidelines) and training from the ‘Recreation for Mental Health’ project see Recreation Nova Scotia’s website: https://www.recreationns.ns.ca/recreation-for-mental-health.html

The other project has focused on developing enjoyable ‘leisure education’ activities to help people who experience barriers to community recreation (e.g., because of health problems) get more connected to themselves, others and their community. The activities have been part of a program we’ve called ‘Steps to Connect.’ We have designed the program so it could be led by trained facilitators (so if this is something you are interested in I would be really interested in talking with you!). Again, for more information about the Steps to Connect project see: https://stepstoconnect.wordpress.com/

Finally, outside of ‘formal’ teaching I have been facilitating ‘retirement planning workshops’ for federal government employees for the last couple of years. This focus on the ‘psychology of retirement’ has brought into focus all the thinking and research I have done over the last couple of decades. I love doing these workshops… and would love to do more! I learn so much every time!

Again, if you want to see some of my research publications that have come from these and other projects you can find a list here. As mentioned, I’m happy to send you copies of any of the articles if you are interested. Just email me at: Susan.Hutchinson@dal.ca