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What to Do for a Son with a Traumatic Brain Injury from Skiing

28 Apr

Question:

Dear Belleruth,

I have a son, now 26, who suffered a head injury, while skiing, when he was 18.  Physically he is fine but emotionally and psychologically he is still struggling.  While he has come a long way, it has been, and continues to be, a painful road (suicide attempt, drug addiction) and unfortunately he is not open to going for help.  I was thinking of having him listen to your PTSD CD.  I thought I would sit with him the first time that he listened to it, for support.  He says he is willing to try it.  I wonder if you have any other suggestions.
 
Thank you,
M.

Answer:

Dear M,

I’m sorry about your son.

We now know a lot more than ever before about TBI, due to all the concussions and head injuries suffered by our service members in Iraq and Afghanistan – not to mention what we’re finally learning from those football and other sports injuries.  So it may make sense to get a fresh evaluation from a neurological expert in this area. A lot has happened since the time he was first assessed. But even if it means you have to travel, go to a big-league institution or specialist, who sees a lot of this and is up on the current findings and treatment recommendations.

As for mind-body self-help options, here are my thoughts:

The PTSD imagery could help, although I’d start with the more targeted and specific TBI imagery – first off, to see if he responds well to guided imagery.  When someone is resistant to getting professional help in the behavioral health area, something like self-administered guided imagery can serve as an important bridge, or even temporary substitute.  Some sleep imagery at night could also be a help and a way of working with him in a more receptive state. And we have a TBI Comeback Kit that includes these two audios, plus our imagery for Headaches.  But start with one – no need to splurge on several if it turns out he’s not wild about the technique.

Since he suffered a traumatic head imagery, neurofeedback might be another ‘gateway intervention’ option that he’d feel fine about trying, and it could be a big help. 

Neurofeedback is a kind of EEG biofeedback that uses real time displays of electroencephalography to show brain activity, with the goal of helping the end user better manage and control his own central nervous system activity.

Sensors are placed on the scalp to measure activity, and measurements are displayed, either using video displays or sound. There’s something about getting this real time feedback that makes it easier for many people to deploy techniques – like relaxed breathing, meditation and guided imagery - to modify it.  It’s mostly been used to help with ADHD or epilepsy, but studies are underway to evaluate the impact on autism, headaches, insomnia,[1] and TBI.[2]  It certainly makes logical sense that this would be a good thing to try for TBI.

It might also be helpful to find him a cranio-sacral practitioner to work on him for a few sessions. Click here. There are trained, certified practitioners pretty much everywhere nowadays, and you can go to this directory (please link to http://www.craniosacral-therapy-healing.com/craniosacral-therapist-directory.html/) as a start. 

It’s a gentle but highly directed, non-invasive kind of energy work, sensitively administered through the practitioner’s hands, which are placed under the base of the skull.  Energy is run through the head and spine and subtle shifts are detected and effected in this way.  It goes straight into the body, and circumvents psychological resistance. At the very least, it will be very relaxing and pleasant for him to experience. 

If at some point he’s ready for some very short term, structured work (that you don’t have to call ‘therapy’) around the traumatic memory of the accident, I would recommend one of the ‘alphabet therapies’ for him – EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, Tapas Acupressure – something along those lines.  You can find practitioners at websites dedicated to these techniques. 

He may still need some old fashioned therapy, but working in these dimensions first might make that more palatable and possible for him.  And it’s possible that these methods may get the job done without the need for traditional therapy.

Best of luck with this,
Belleruth