In the quest to understand and treat acquired brain injury (ABI), research has often focused on impairments, deficits and loss. However, a number of studies have found positive psychological outcomes following brain injury.
One such outcome is “post-traumatic growth”, defined by Tedeschi and Calhoun (2004) as “the experience of positive change that occurs as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life crises”. Post-traumatic growth can take many forms, such as increased appreciation of life and more positive interpersonal relationships.
The role of value-directed living
Post-traumatic growth is thought to be related with value-directed living, which refers to the process of behaving in ways that support one’s life values. For example, a person who values family relationships might choose to spend more time with their family. This approach can be beneficial to anyone, but there is evidence to suggest that increased engagement in value-directed living is linked with psychological wellbeing and improved function (ability to perform day-to-day activities) after brain injury. For example, in a study published in 2020, Baseotto and colleagues found that experience of positive change following a brain injury was linked with value-directed living, and was less influenced by wellbeing, resilience, function or post-traumatic stress.
Why is this important?
As a result of these findings, the authors proposed that promoting value-directed living may be a useful aspect of interventions for the rehabilitation of people with acquired brain injuries. Value-directed living can also be embedded in the development of rehabilitation goals that align with each person’s values. For example, a rehabilitation plan might support someone who values parenting, but is less able to play football with their children because of severe fatigue following ABI, to identify alternatives, such as playing computer games or singing, which would nevertheless pursue the same values.
Living according to one’s values seems to be a positive and important aspect to consider when delivering rehabilitation, but there may be many others. In order to uncover some of these, we are about to embark on a new research project exploring survivor and families’ experiences following acquired brain injury. This study will help us gain a better understanding of how families adapt after the brain injury, and how to better support them. Stay tuned for updates, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Baseotto, M. C., Morris, P. G., Gillespie, D. C., & Trevethan, C. T. (2020). Post-traumatic growth and value-directed living after acquired brain injury. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/09602011.2020.1798254