Occupational Therapy & Brain Injury Recovery

Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
Ask an OT About Recovering from a Brain Injury

Question. How does a brain injury affect my day-to-day activities?

Answer. Recovering from a brain injury can take a few months to years. It could be a lifetime process, requiring major changes to your daily living activities. However, regardless of your stage of recovery, an occupational therapist (OT) can help you to begin to participate in the activities that are important to you. An occupational therapist can also help your family, friends, teachers and employers to support your fuller participation in your day-to-day activities, at home and in the community.

A brain injury can cause a variety of problems. You may find that you have headaches, become confused easily, have difficulty remembering and/or controlling your emotions. An OT can help you to adapt your environment and use equipment such as a memory notebook so that these things are less of a problem to you and so that you can do things more independently.

Recovering from a brain injury can be very difficult for yourself and those around you. However, with the assistance from an occupational therapist you may find new skills for the job of living and enjoy your life once again.

Question. Will my life ever be the same?

Answer. For some people the answer is "Yes".

Other people will have to learn new ways of doing the activities (occupations) which are difficult, or find new occupations to bring them satisfaction.

Depending on your individual needs and wants, an occupational therapist will work with you to:

1. Learn new strategies (ways) of doing things


  • Prepare schedules to pace your day.
  • Learn strategies to help remember information.
  • Get around your community using a wheelchair.
  • Learn anger management to work out disagreements with a friend or co-worker.
  • Dress, cook or bathe safely if you have decreased sensation, muscle weakness or your movements are difficult to control.

2. Adapt the materials or equipment you use


  • Daily planners and/or electronic organizers.
  • Timers and alarms.
  • Computer software.

3. Make changes to your environment


  • Negotiate with your employer for flexible work hours.
  • Organize your work spaces.
  • Help educate teachers and peers about your abilities versus disabilities.

Question. Some people say I'm a different person since the accident. What do I do?

Answer. A brain injury can cause changes in your personality but with the help of an OT, coping strategies can be identified; for example:

You may need to simplify your environment to reduce noise and sights that may cause you to become distracted, irritated and/or agitated. Some brain injuries can also trigger depression or anxiety which may require medical or psychological assistance.

Your decision making and planning abilities may also be effected. A system can be set up that will help you to problem solve, keep organized and accomplish the things that are important to you.

Consider joining a support group where you can share your frustrations and receive objective advice on your actions, decisions and how they affect you and others.

There are a number of brain injury associations, locally, provincially, even internationally that can be of assistance. Check your yellow pages, under associations for your local group. You may also want to visit the International Brain Injury Association's web site at http://www.internationalbrain.org.

Question. How can occupational therapy help?

Answer. Occupational therapy solves the problems that interfere with your ability to do the things that are important to you. It can also prevent a problem or minimize its effects.

A brain injury, however mild, can limit your ability to:

  • take care of yourself,
  • participate in paid or unpaid work, or
  • enjoy your leisure time, e.g. hobbies,sports, spending time with family, or others.

You may want to learn some new skills for the job of living from an occupational therapist.

Our values and beliefs

Occupational therapists believe that occupations (activities) describe who we are and how we feel about ourselves. If you are unable to do the things you want, or need to do, to live and enjoy your life, your general well-being may be affected.

This information was prepared in collaboration with the Alliance of Community Occupational Therapists in B.C. Many thanks to Deirdre Dawson, Ph.D. and Angela Colantonio, researchers and lecturers in the University of Toronto's Occupational Therapy Educational Program, for their review of this information.

For more information on how occupational therapy may help you or someone you know contact: Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists at (800) 434-2268, ext. 237, or  email us

Posted on BrainLine March 24, 2011.

From the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. Used with permission. www.caot.ca.