Lunch Colloquium: Wednesday, 31 January 2024

Please join us for our first winter term speaker in the School’s 2023/24 colloquium series, Nancy Lin, who will be presenting, ‘Psychosocial Research Intentionally Excludes People With Disabilities After Acquired Brain Injury: How Rehabilitation Disciplines Can Help

Psychosocial Research Intentionally Excludes People With Disabilities After Acquired Brain Injury: How Rehabilitation Disciplines Can Help

Disability after acquired brain injury (ABI) often requires mental health treatment, but contradictorily, also restricts access to it. People with cognitive, motor, language, and perceptual disabilities have been excluded from research on psychosocial interventions like psychotherapy, support groups, and meaningful life activities. This exclusion reinforces the inequitable distribution of research benefits, maintains gaps in practice, and has persisted despite the existence of accommodations – in the form of rehabilitation compensatory strategies – that could facilitate meaningful inclusion.

This colloquium will summarize a scoping review of psychosocial interventions for ABI. A comprehensive search strategy was developed for databases related to psychology, social work, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech-language pathology, and recreation therapy. All included documents were analysed using qualitative and quantitative content analysis. The a priori coding framework included: Inclusion/exclusion criteria, ABI and disability characteristics, psychiatric comorbidity, compensatory strategies, and intervention characteristics.

Samples were commonly limited to mild cognitive disability, with other ABI subpopulations under-represented. Moderate-to-severe cognitive and language disabilities were systematically excluded from psychotherapy studies. In contrast, support group and meaningful life activity studies more often included a range of disabilities, but also more often excluded psychiatric comorbidity. Compensatory strategies included external aids for cognitive and motor abilities, behavioural strategies and assistive technology for communication, and environmental modifications for perception. While these compensatory strategies were represented in rehabilitation disciplines and were often applied to meaningful life activities, they were under-represented and inadequately described in the psychotherapy literature. By including only people with mild and uncomplicated impairment profiles, the field risks neglecting the complex realities of others who arguably have even greater need for support. This colloquium will offer recommendations for research and practice, including: The inclusion of a range of ABI disabilities in research samples, adapting procedures using cross-disciplinary compensatory strategies to facilitate inclusion, and greater cross-pollination between mental health and rehabilitation disciplines. This presentation serves as a call to action to make psychosocial interventions equitable and accessible for all people, regardless of ability.

Nancy Lin is a doctoral student at The University of British Columbia School of Social Work and a practicing healthcare social worker. Her practice experience spans healthcare spectrum, including in acute care, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, and long-term care. Her research interests include healthcare inclusion for people with disabilities, psychosocial adjustment after acquired brain injury, and evidence-based practice in social work. Her doctoral dissertation is focused on increasing mental health accessibility for people with acquired brain injury.

We look forward to seeing you in-person on January 31st at 12:05pm!