By Dr. T Santhanam, Psychology
Brain injuries can occur in many ways. People may suffer a stroke, contract severe infections, or meet accidents which may cause brain injury resulting in cognitive dysfunction. This may include memory problems, attention difficulties, attention span problems, social-behavioral problems, difficulties in planning events, etc. This, in turn, can impact the patient’s ability to take care of himself, complete tasks, cope up with daily activities, keep track of schedules, and even interact with people. It has potential to interfere with a sense of achievement at school, work, or home. The long-term impact of such cognitive impairment can be devastating. However, one can take the help of cognitive rehabilitation therapy to stop cognitive functions from degrading and start on improving them.
What is Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy?
A range of treatments to address cognitive issues arising out of a brain injury is together known as Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy. The treatment depends on the degree of cognitive impairment and the severity of symptoms. It does not follow any specific technique or approach. Broadly speaking, it refers to the rehabilitation attempts that can enhance the functioning of cognitive elements of the brain and ensure patient’s self-reliance who are dealing with cognitive impairment arising out of brain disease or injury.
Some of the most commonly encountered events that may give rise to such impairments are Traumatic Brain Injury, Stroke, etc. It is different from cognitive behavioural therapy, which is used to address the psychiatric and emotional problems of patients.
There are two broad approaches to Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy:
- Restorative Treatment: The goal of this type of treatment is to improve cognitive function across a range of parameters.
- Compensatory Treatment: The goal of this type of rehabilitative treatment is to train the specific functional areas to hone cognitive functions. So, this may include learning self-curing strategies, using memory notebooks, etc.
Other Types of Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy
The most appropriate CRT approach is one that focuses on variables like settings, treatment formats, etc. There are a number of professionals who deliver CRT services that include:
- Speech and language pathologists
- Physical therapists
- Occupational therapists
- Rehabilitation counselors
- Neuropsychologist doctors
Such services can be provided in hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation units, outpatient departments of hospitals as well as in community brain injury rehabilitation centers. Such programs may be delivered in groups or individually.
Restorative Versus Compensatory Treatment
Restorative treatment often involves repetitive use of specific cognitive functions by gradually enhancing the level of difficulty. For example, patients suffering from attention deficits may be provided with repetitive computer tasks requiring the detection of objects on the computer screen while gradually increasing the pace.
In the case of compensatory treatment, a patient suffering from memory impairment, for example, may be provided with strategies to remember a list of groceries to be bought. This is not aimed at improving his/her function, but to just let him/her cope with daily activities.
Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy is helpful in treating cognitive impairments. However, it is advisable to consult a doctor as the treatment varies from person to person.