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Removing barriers to rehabilitation: Theory-based family intervention in community settings after brain injury


Rehabilitation professionals have become increasingly aware that family members play a critical role in the recovery process of individuals after brain injury. In addition, researchers have begun to identify a relationship between family member caregivers' well-being and survivors' outcomes. The idea of a continuum of care or following survivors from inpatient care to community reintegration has become an important model of treatment across many hospital and community-based settings. In concert with the continuum of care, present research literature indicates that family intervention may be a key component to successful rehabilitation after brain injury. Yet, clinicians interacting with family members and survivors often feel confounded about how exactly to intervene with the broader family system beyond the individual survivor. Drawing on the systemic nature of the field of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT), this article provides information to assist clinicians in effectively intervening with families using theory-based interventions in community settings. First, a rationale for the utilization of systems-based, as opposed to individual-based, therapies will be uncovered. Second, historically relevant publications focusing on family psychotherapy and intervention after brain injury are reviewed and their implications discussed. Recommendations for the utilization of systemic theory-based principles and strategies, specifically Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Narrative Therapy (NT), and Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT) will be examined. Descriptions of common challenges families and couples face will be presented along with case examples to illustrate how these theoretical frameworks might be applied to these special concerns postinjury. Finally, the article concludes with an overview of the ideas presented in this manuscript to assist practitioners and systems of care in community-based settings to more effectively intervene with the family system as a whole after brain injury.