Educating Providers in Outside Programs About Traumatic Brain Injury

Service providers in programs like counseling or substance abuse need to know about a person's TBI and tailor pathways for success.

[Dr. Harvey Jacobs] There are times when a person—well, many times, as a matter of fact— where a person needs services, such as substance abuse services or it can be just counseling—it can be anything, going to school. And where the person who's providing those services—the programs— doesn't understand brain injury, and they say, "We have this set of rules." And when the person can't follow the rules—because they can't remember them or they don't understand them—too often, the other side says, "We can't provide services because this person is noncompliant." Well, to me, "noncompliant" is one of those negative "non" words. Because really, what's happening is you may give a person some information, but that doesn't mean that they understand it or read it. So what that person needs to do at that point in time—or maybe if that person can't, maybe people within their support circles, family members, other professionals who are involved and sometimes other materials can be provided to that group or that agency to, first, help them understand that just like anybody else, this person really wants to succeed. Second, because of the brain injury, they may have some challenges in this area. But the most important thing is to say, "This is how to be successful with that individual." So I use this example a lot: If that person—rather than having a brain injury— lost his or her vision and couldn't see, the other party would quickly get you can't give this person a regular book. "We're going to have to use books on tape or Braille." So identifying both the disability and handicap, but also identifying the pathways to success. A lot of times with brain injury, the changes in how a person perceives or understands or relates to the world are more subtle. And there's often not an obvious physical deficit. So it's harder a lot of times for other programs to understand that, and understand that these so-called subtle issues are not so subtle, because they're game changers for the person. They're game changers for what occurs about their success or failure in the situation. So we have to bring these things together to these programs. We have to educate them. We have to help them understand how they can be successful with the person and to collaborate with that person to their abilities.
Posted on BrainLine November 12, 2010.

Produced by Vicky Youcha and Brian King.