Living with brain injury can feel like a threat to an entire identity – but through pioneering DJing-led rehab from BPM Rehab, survivors are being supported to rebuild self-esteem, social life and independence. NR Times learns more
When a life is rocked by something that can be as devastating as an acquired brain injury, so much can be lost: mobility, independence, self-esteem, career, social life – the list can be long and overwhelming.
All these facets of life underpin what it is to be us. We are who we are because of so many of these areas and to feel them threatened can feel like a threat to an entire identity, either one that once was or one that could have been.
Often, even worse, can be the unintentional acquisition of a new identity. For someone who has previously been “The one who works in the fancy office” or “The one who goes skiing”, there might now be a sense of being “The one with the brain injury” or “The one who had that awful accident…”.
We know from over a decade of research in this area that some of the biggest improvements in neuropsychological rehabilitation happen when a positive sense of social identity is maintained or enhanced (e.g., Jones et al., 2010).
Notably, in 2011, Fisher and colleagues described a case study of a young woman whose protective factors of social networks and a sense of identity led to significant neuropsychological improvement in functions associated with her prefrontal cortex, despite suffering significant lesions in that area seven years previously. As a result, she was afforded an identity beyond someone who had been involved in an horrific incident and instead as someone who was capable of a fulfilling life.
Walsh’s paper in 2014 highlights the importance of this dual approach to rehabilitation: neuropsychological and social. He and his colleagues summarise how the rapidly growing field of research which calls for the integration of biological and social approaches to post-ABI support, and recognises how a focus on social identity may be the most powerful vehicle for achieving that.
BPM Rehab know this all too well. The brainchild of award-winning DJ, Mark One, and paediatric clinical neuropsychologist, Dr Penny Trayner, BPM Rehab offers the opportunity to explore rehabilitation through a comprehensive neuropsychologically informed tutorage of DJ skills. This previous NRTimes article details just some of the ways that this is possible, including improving attention, working memory and executive functioning skills.
Alongside all of this, arguably most notably, is the new enormously positive identity experienced by BPM Rehab’s budding DJs. Rather than being ‘The one with the brain injury’, they become ‘The one who DJs’ or even ‘The one who performed to hundreds of people at that huge event’.
Within this, supported by adaptations made by BPM Rehab, is the reclamation of self-esteem, social life, independence, and maybe even branching into a new career. Identity can be everything.
Fisher, T., Shamay-Tsoory, S.G., Eran, A., & Aharon-Peretz, J. (2011). Characterization of recovery and neuropsychological consequences of orbitofrontal lesion: A case study. Neurocase, 17(3), 285–293.
Jones, J.M., Haslam, S.A., Jetten, J., Williams, W.H., Morris, R., & Saroyan, S. (2010). That which doesn’t kill us can make us stronger (and more satisfied with life): The contribution of personal and social changes to well-being after acquired brain injury. Psychology and Health, 26, 353–369.
Walsh, R. S., Fortune, D. G., Gallagher, S., & Muldoon, O. T. (2014). Acquired brain injury: combining social psychological and neuropsychological perspectives. Health Psychology Review, 8(4), 458-472.
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