Why is recreational therapy important for getting people back to activity following a brain injury and depression?
The recreation therapist is an expert in helping people, in very concrete ways, get back to their life and those things they enjoy, to help them function and get around in the community in a way that’s more independent, which can also help with depression.
Many with people with brain injury were injured in car crashes. They are afraid of driving, they can’t drive, or they are afraid of traffic. They are afraid of getting around. And so a lot of times, the recreation therapist can be helpful, because they’ll actually take people out in the street, on a bus, help them relax and approach these things that they’ve feared and have avoided for a while.
And so that kind of hand-holding that they can do, taking them actually out into the community rather than just sitting in my office, is really powerful, because those people need – first of all, they fear doing these things. And also, they need that extra help to overcome their lack of initiative, or maybe the family’s worried about their relative taking a bus because they are afraid that a bus might crash. So the recreation therapist can help people overcome some of the barriers to resuming these activities.
Many people, after brain injury, can’t drive anymore. They’re marooned at home, or they’re dependent on their family members to get around. So at least in a city where there’s public transportation, one of the things they can do to resume things they enjoy is to be able to take a bus, take public transportation, be able to use it, read a schedule and so forth. The bus can be a lifeline for them to get back out into the community and do things that they enjoy.
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.