My sister's outpatient rehabilitation program offers both individual and group rehabilitation therapy. Are there advantages to one versus the other?
The research so far has shown that people with brain injury make progress in both individual and group treatment settings. There is no definitive research showing that one kind of treatment is better than the other for regaining a specific skill. That said, here is some more information on the differences between individual and group treatment.
Individual treatment sessions are just that — specific to the needs of a particular person. They are intensive and focused. Because it's one-on-one, there is less chance of distraction, which can interfere with learning. And because individual sessions are private, they can also provide a comfortable setting for people to practice difficult or personal tasks.
Group rehab therapy has its own advantages. Generalization — or "carry-over" — of new skills is challenging after brain injury and group therapy can often help. Group treatment provides more chances to practice a new skill in a different setting with other people. Groups can help improve communication skills and socialization, which can be affected by a brain injury. Finally, being involved in a group of people with similar issues can provide an immense sense of support at a time of drastic change. There is a great benefit to recognizing "I am not alone." Group members can also learn from each other's experiences.
The group should be small enough so each member has sufficient opportunity to participate. Most rehabilitation programs set limits on group size. Talk with your sister's treatment team to decide on the balance that will work best for her. You might want to schedule regular reviews of her plan so treatment can be adjusted as her needs change.
Elaine Sherard practiced as a speech-language pathologist and had various roles in the neurorehabilitation field for 25 years, including management and serving as President of the Board of Directors of the Brain Injury Association of South Carolina. She continues as a consultant in the brain injury rehabilitation field as well as advocacy endeavors.