A change from the usual kind of post this month, folks. An interview with Laurie Rippon. Laurie got in touch last month after reading Baring Things in Mind (Part Three) . She is herself a brain injury survivor and Peer Counselor.
In the post I make two observations: Firstly, of “similarities and cross pollinations of psychotherapy approaches”; secondly, “counselling rarely dealing with the inter-relatedness of brain injury and personality”.
These struck a chord with Laurie. She interpreted me as meaning a more holistic approach (for brain injury survivors).
Her own course through rehabilitation was with the Rusk Brain Injury Day Treatment Program, created by Yehuda Ben-Yishay, PhD. And it is this she wants to draw attention to.
Laurie is no less qualified, in my opinion. In 2011 she earned a Master’s degree in Transition Special Education – despite the double-whammy of two brain injuries. So first I wanted to begin with her.
(N = Neurolations; L = Laurie)
N : I note you’ve had two brain injuries.
L : Yes. Both injuries, a year apart, were sustained as a pedestrian while crossing the street. In 2005 I was struck by a car and 14 months later by a motorcycle. The first was undiagnosed, but my deficits from that accident — e.g, problems with attention, vision and information processing — likely contributed to the second.
N : What powered you on from that double-whammy?
L : The second TBI left me totally confused, unable to recognize myself. It felt like I’d lost everything, including what I was always most proud of: my brain. I was fifty years old and I’d had a long successful career. But I realized I couldn’t go back, so I had to give back, to find a purpose and I did. Living with brain injury made me acutely aware that something was missing from our lives — support and recognition. My choice was clear: to contribute by building community and raising awareness through outreach and education.
N : What role do you play in the outside world?
L : I’ve become a resource for the brain injury community, a sounding board. That is, in the end, how I give back. As someone with an insatiable appetite for learning, I’ve built a ridiculous library of information about brain injury and advocacy. The result is enough knowledge to solve problems and the personal understanding to help my peers.
N : What advice do you give someone no longer trusting themselves because of their brain injury?
L : Ask for and accept help — the single most important lesson I’ve learned. You may have lost the life you had before, but you still have who you are, and that is a lot. Honestly. I know only too well the struggle to find your “self,” much less feel it’s enough. In truth, that “self” offers more possibilities than you can imagine. The first step is to trust—in yourself and in others. Soon you’ll see that asking for help from those you do trust is how we all learn and grow.
L : Communication is the key. Brain injury makes it hard to fully understand what’s being said and to express oneself calmly and clearly. Talk with your patient, not at them, and go slow—one thought at a time. Be sure you understand what they’re trying to say and make sure it’s clear to them that you’re listening and really hear them. You’re not the only expert in the room; your patient’s living it and knows things you cannot see. Learn from them and be flexible.
Most of all, be honest. Your patient is confronting a devastating reality, so your job is two-fold. Be a clear, empathic messenger of that truth but at the same time, offer hope. Give them the tools they need to forge through. In every session model those strategies, have your patient practice them, and offer feedback. Those are your tools to ensure they process, remember, and start to believe in themselves.
Ending Part One
My thanks to Laurie.
If you’d like to catch up with her, Laurie also has a blog. Click here for more.
In Part Two, we’ll look more into the Rusk Brain Injury Day Treatment Program.
Take care for now.