Working Towards Independence

This marriage and family therapist, talks about common issues after TBI.

An example might a mom who has a teenage son and her notions of her son's brain injury are that he is "sick," rather than injured because there are many different ways of experiencing a brain injury, and families from different cultures often have different ideas and cultural beliefs and attitudes about what a brain injury is. So, for example, a mom who believes that her son's brain injury is an illness, and her role as a mom is to care for her son, then she is going to do everything possible to take care of her "sick" child because that's how she is experiencing that brain injury. Rather than take it away from her, we need to acknowledge that she is doing her best to be a good mom, but what are the things that will be important for her to support her son in his recovery process. So it may not be independence like the rehab team is wanting. Maybe it's to help him be stronger, and what are the things that might help him be stronger. So perhaps physical therapy could be re-framed as a way to help him be stronger, rather than to learn better gait. Or, for example, rather than have OT or occupational therapy involved, to help him learn to be independent in feeding himself. Perhaps OT could be involved in helping him develop skills to be stronger. So it's re-framing things in a way that would be meaningful for the family, but what it requires first is stepping back, not imposing your own values, and being aware of what our biases are. For example, our biases are very much promoting independence, and families from other cultures may not buy into that. And then more importantly, getting to know what is important for that family, what are the values that are meaningful for that family, and to try to bridge the two cultures, based on things that would be meaningful for them.
Posted on BrainLine April 29, 2009. Reviewed January 16, 2018.

About the author: Caron Gan, RN

Caron Gan is an Advanced Practice Nurse, Registered Psychotherapist, and Registered Marriage and Family Therapist with the Ontario and American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). She has worked with clients with brain injury, providing psychotherapeutic intervention to youth, adults, couples, and families.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Brian King.