Why is it important to see a cognitive behavior therapist who has experience with brain injury?
If a person with brain injury went to a cognitive behavior therapist who wasn’t really familiar with brain injury, the patient might become overwhelmed and overstimulated, and that might trigger some fatigue, putting their head down or irritability, anger, and agitation because there’s too much coming in at once and they’re being asked to do too many things at once.
The therapist who’s not familiar with brain injury might interpret that as the person not wanting to be there or not being able to do this or poor motivation instead of realizing that they’re running up against some brain injury limitations that they need to accommodate.
With a person who has a brain injury, we want to break it down into smaller chunks. We’d allow them more times to try something. We’d provide them with more help to do it, so we might engage a helper. We’d do a number of things to provide some scaffolding to help ensure greater success, like being more lenient and patient. And we’d take more sessions to do it, perhaps 16 sessions instead of 10 or so.
Charles Bombardier, Ph.D., M.S., is a board-certified clinical psychologist at the Rehabilitation Medicine Clinic at Harborview, head of the Clinical and Neuropsychology Department at UW Medicine and a UW professor of Rehabilitation Medicine. His research interests include treating major depression with exercise, counseling or medication and promoting healthy behaviors and reducing substance use in people with physical and/or cognitive disabilities.