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Conference to address changes in relationships and intimacy following ABI

By Dr Keith G Jenkins, Lead Psychologist & Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist, Neuropsychiatry Division, St Andrew’s Healthcare



There can be a reluctance to talk about issues of intimacy and relationships after a life changing brain injury, yet it is so important for people who have suffered a brain injury, their families, and professionals providing support.

Being able to maintain relationships and intimacy after a brain injury can be a vital component in rebuilding a person’s life, and fundamental to their mental health and wellbeing.

However, after a behaviour changing brain injury relationships can be strained to breaking point, leading to separation or divorce, sadly more likely if there are young children involved (Wood, R. L., & Yurdakul, L. K. (1997).

Certainly, those of us working in neurobehavioural services will be familiar with needing to support our brain injured clients cope with and understand the breakdown of their relationship and loss of the discharge destination, “home”, that they long for.

Headway UK offers resources to support professionals and people living with the effects of acquired brain injury, but as we know, the experience is a unique one for each individual, couple or family and so we can only be provided with a guide, not a prescription for the individual in front of us.

However, the Acquired Brain Injury Forum Northants conference on June 5 aims to bring together a wealth of experience and knowledge to get us close to having the definitive guide.

An impressive line-up of speakers will challenge our thinking and offer ideas for making progress for people struggling with relationships and intimacy after their brain injury.

Steve Shears, Counsellor & Therapist, and former training lead for Headway UK, will describe his work with couples; Key relationship issues encountered after brain injury.

Some of the changes in behaviour that can contribute to relationships failing will be discussed by Dr Caroline Knight, one of the developers of the St Andrew’s Sexual Behaviour Assessment that can be used to monitor inappropriate behaviour; When sexual behaviour becomes a concern post ABI.

Dr Venkataraman Burrah, Consultant Psychiatrist at St Andrew’s Northampton, will address the topic from the less commonly explored perspective of working with women who have an acquired brain injury; Working with women living with complex issues after an acquired brain injury.

The final ‘standard’ presentation is from the excellent Professor Clare de Than of Regents College London, who will challenge us all to consider where we are being unnecessarily restrictive and what can be done to legally facilitate relationships and intimacy for a person after their brain injury; Legalities and practicalities in supporting people with an ABI in achieving intimacy.

For the final part of the day, the conference will deal with lived experience through performance art that presents key moments from the story of Mark and Jules Kennedy, What the hell just happened? by Narrative Alchemy in association with The University of Northampton.

This will uniquely add real time observation and experience for delegates, in addition to the insights gained from our speakers.

Finally, this will then be followed by an opportunity to ask Mark and Jules questions about their experience.

I anticipate a moving, valuable and challenging day, I hope to see you there.

See the full conference programme here and book your place here.