Reviewed by Maria Kennedy, Senior Occupational Therapist, Daughters of Charity Service, Blackrock, Co. Dublin


Lifeskills: a positive approach, by Monica Macnamara, an Irish occupational therapist, has been available since 1995. Over the last three years it has proven to be a most valued guide to organising lifeskills training. The uniqueness of this book is in its particular ‘positive approach’ to both the reader and to the person who needs lifeskills training. The book is written in a style that is clear, interesting, lively, very practical and, most importantly, easy to read. Jargon and technical explanations are avoided, and real-life examples in story style bring the ideas to life.

The concept of lifeskills is described broadly as ‘those skills which enable a person to function as happily and independently as possible in his or her own environment’. This huge range of skills has been simply organised into six core skill areas: self-care, home skills, community skills, interpersonal skills, leisure skills and work skills.

Lists of examples of individual tasks, such as use of the telephone, telling the time, greeting people, using cinemas, etc., give a menu of ideas about areas that could be tackled using this ‘positive approach’.

Macnamara has tackled many of the lifeskills training issues that daunt both families and instructors, such as long-term training with limited results, priority goals, sense of achievement and the transfer of skills to everyday life. The focus of the book is very much on the needs of each individual, their hopes and dreams, their needs and support systems. Motivation of the trainee is a key theme throughout the book. The vital link between having people involved in choosing the goals that are important to them and the eventual success of the training is demonstrated through real-life examples.

The reader is guided through a series of steps that help to plan, implement and evaluate training. There is as much focus on the planning stage as on implementation; collaboration between the person, family and trainer is emphasised at all stages of the process.

These step-by-step guidelines are easy to follow and to use. The book has been recently used in practice to help plan a cookery programme, and is also used regularly as a reference to dip into for ideas such as teaching methods or tips for dealing with unwanted behaviours in sessions. It offers a useful blueprint for facilitating learning in many settings.

Monica Macnamara is now working as a consultant, providing a wide range of customised training for staff or trainees and advises on programme planning and development. Her four-volume series, Know your money workshops will be reissued in July 1998, available from Sue Jones, St Michael’s House, Research and Service Development. (Monica Macnamara, 48 Hannaville Park, Terenure, Dublin 6, tel: 01-490 7490; email:

LIFESKILLS: A POSITIVE APPROACH. Monica Macnamara, Souvenir Press (E&A) Ltd, London. (Human Horizon Series) ISBN 0-285-63213-2. Ir£10-99. (Available from Eason’s, O’Connell Street, Dublin 1, or from Eason’s Wholesales)


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