A Student’s Experience of a Group for Acquired Brain Injury
As an intern at S.L. Hunter SpeechWorks, I have witnessed the powerful role group treatment can play in a person’s recovery from a brain injury. The SpeechWorks’ group for acquired brain injury provides opportunities for members to relate to one another, receive feedback from a trusted Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), build communicative confidence, and practice their communication goals in a safe setting. I value the work being done in these groups and I hope the following blog post will provide you with a small glimpse into a typical group therapy session at S.L Hunter SpeechWorks.
ALL ABOUT A GROUP FOR ACQUIRED BRAIN INJURY – CHECKING IN
“Let’s begin with our check in,” Bobi, the group’s SLP announces. A circular chart filled with emotion words is passed out. “I’ll begin,” chimes a group member. The group’s attention turns towards this member. She glances at the chart and begins to state the emotions that fit her current circumstances. “I’m upset but also thankful,” she explains. As the member begins to expand on the hardships and joys of her past week, other members smile and nod in agreement as if to say, “I’ve been there too.” As the check in continues, I am struck by the comfort group members are able to bring to each other. When a member expresses concern, others are quick to relate by sharing a personal story that caused them to have the same feelings. This group for acquired brain injury is more than just a source of emotional support – it offered the members a chance to work on goals that could carry over to conversation with others.
As check in continues, another group member begins to express her feelings of frustration. I watch as the SLP listens attentively before asking, “Why do you think your brother reacted that way?” While the member considers the question, I reflect on the SLP’s ability to ask questions that require each member to carefully work through their personal goals such as the ability to take another person’s perspective. After the member responds to the question, the SLP responds with encouragement, “You did a really good job taking your brother’s perspective there.” I notice how the SLP’s encouragement provides this member with feedback specific to her goal of being able to take another person’s perspective. I am amazed by the progress I see occurring in such a natural conversation.
After the check in period concludes, the SLP leads the group through a discussion of non-verbal communications. During this time, group members share their own experience and knowledge regarding this topic. In addition to learning how to interpret non-verbal communication, I notice how each member appears to be building confidence in their communication skills. I watch as members who first appeared to be hesitant in the group begin to participate with greater ease. This group for acquired brain injury appeared to build confidence of its participants before my eyes.
A SAFE AND SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT
As the group begins to near an end and members fit in their final stories or discussion points for the day, I reflect on the group’s safe environment. Each member has communication goals and therefore no member needs to feel singled out by the challenges they face. Because of the safe environment, I notice how members are able to receive feedback from both the SLP and each other without any feelings of embarrassment. This group for acquired brain injury definitely offered emotional support!
Although the group has ended, I notice members are staying behind to continue their conversations. I hear laughter echoing through the hallways as I walk further away from the room. After attending just one session, I can already identify a strong sense of community within this group.
We offer groups for our own clients as well as those working with SLPs from other agencies. Please click here for more information on our communication groups for people who have survived ABI.
Rebecca is a recent graduate from the Speech-Language Pathology Program at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Through her internships, she has gained experience working with toddlers, school aged children, and adults with a variety of communication disorders. While Rebecca enjoys working with kids and adults, she has a special interest in working with kids who have language disorders.